Talented concert pianist Stewart Goodyear will be making a return to the Overture Center on Feb. 16 for “Goodyear Returns,” with a pre-concert discussion and three beautiful compositions starting at 7:30 p.m. Goodyear has visited Madison three times before and helped to open the Capitol Theater in 2005 as he and Kathleen Battle held the first performances in the Overture Center Hall.
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) Music Director Andrew Sewell recalled Goodyear’s original performance in 2005, and additional performances in 2010 and 2013 that saw Goodyear develop and return to premier his own concerto over the three-year period.
“I became music director of Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and then Wichita Symphony, so I’ve engaged Stewart since then,” Sewell told Madison365. “When we had to open the new hall of the Capitol Theater, they really wanted it to be a very significant event. The board wanted a really well-known person, a famous person, talking about Kathleen Battle. Stewart was an equally famous person, but just with the level of talent I thought, ‘Let’s do a doubleheader.’ I’m so glad we did it. We did two performances, and Stewart was incredibly gracious.”
The pieces in the repertoire for Feb. 16 include Christopher Blake’s “Night Journey to Pawarenga,” Igor Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella,” and Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat.” The last of which is a special piece to Goodyear who first heard it in his childhood.
“This concerto is very interesting because this is a concerto that goes back to my childhood,” Goodyear explained to Madison365. “It was one of the first Mozart pieces I had heard before the D minor, before the famous concerto that has the nickname of ‘Elvira Madigan.’ All of these concertos I knew later on in life, but I was around 4 when I heard the 27th Concerto. The third movement, especially, was a real soundtrack of my childhood. Finally having the opportunity to perform this piece, I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Goodyear, who grew up in Toronto, recalled his parents listening to the likes of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Tears for Fears, and other popular 80’s stars while there was something about classical music that spoke to him specifically. Goodyear expressed that while some may find Mozart’s 27th Concerto a more tragic piece being composed near the end of his life, he feels it could be heard as a sort of exploration of life as a journey if those in the audience immerse themselves in the music.
“I always think of Mozart at a time in his life where this is not about showcasing or writing for a particular event, or for a particular response,” said Goodyear on the work that came from Mozart’s later years. “This was definitely a work where audiences or listeners had that love affair with Mozart and his genius and his innovation. Listeners trusted Mozart to write for himself. There’s a lot that is there. It is a showcase, but I wouldn’t call it a showpiece. There’s virtuosity, but it’s more on the lyrical side. There’s interplay with what I’m doing and what the orchestra is doing, which also happens in other concertos, but it’s even more heightened. It’s almost as if we collaborated so much, that we are so in tune, it’s not even about talking over each other or anything like that, we finish each other’s sentences.”
The composition by Igor Stravinsky was described by Goodyear as quirky, sweet and humorous, and Goodyear was also excited to work with a composition he has not previously worked with with the Christopher Blake piece. Sewell explained how he came about choosing the Blake composition, and how amazing the results can be when building relationships with talented composers such as Black and Goodyear.
“When people that I know who are composers say they’re writing a piece, because I know the person, it almost gives me license to say, ‘I know this person. I can’t wait to hear what they write about, and what their inspiration is,’” said Sewell, recalling how Christopher Blake’s piece that will be featured at “Goodyear Returns” stemmed from Sewell and New Zealand photographer Robin Morrison as inspiration.
“I feel it gives me a connection in that regard. Similarly, the inspiration for this piece actually stemmed from another piece in 1996 when I was in the audience and I heard Chris Blake’s piece called ‘We All Fall Down,’ it was a premiere. The last closing moments of that piece is this haunting melody, and it just struck me. I went home that night and couldn’t get out of my head. I wrote to him and said, ‘I’ve just got this idea. Would you take that melody, and compose another piece just for me in strings or something?’ He said, ‘Sure.’”
Sewell and Goodyear were both excited for the night of Feb. 16 and shared their eagerness for people to come experience the hour and a half of musical wonder that will surely leave an impression. Goodyear himself reflected on the lasting impressions of art, expanding on his love for media outside of just music including film, literature, and even simply the pursuit of knowledge itself.
Goodyear closed on a reflection of how music allowed him to find his voice and connect with others as a child, and how he hopes that his work and others can continue that effect for people of all ages over generations to come.
“I find that with literature, and the way that authors write about humanity so in tune with humanities thoughts, behaviors, and reactions … that’s universal,” Goodyear said in reflection. “History is universal, it keeps on going. There are always variations on similar themes, so being a lover of history, that’s universal. Music, to me, is the universal language. It’s a language that speaks to all kinds of generations no matter when it was written, and no matter what venue it was originally written for. Again, it’s a variation on a similar theme.
“Classical music just happened to be my heartbeat. It made me come alive, it was my breath,” he adds. “Listening to the words of Tchaikovsky or Mozart or Beethoven was what kept me going, what kept me alive, and what made me break the ice to my age group.”
To learn more about “Goodyear Returns” and purchase tickets, visit the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra website here.