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Pianist Stewart Goodyear’s New York recital debut this Friday evening at the Baptist Temple Church in Downtown Brooklyn came about thanks to a strange confluence of events.

Goodyear, who made his New York orchestral debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in the summer of 2000, is performing because the Brooklyn Philharmonic had to reschedule two of their concerts due to a loss of funding following Sept. 11.

Grant Llewellyn was scheduled to conduct the Brooklyn Philharmonic on Feb. 15 and Feb. 16 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music opera house. Instead, Goodyear will perform for Philharmonic ticket holders on those dates at the Baptist Temple Church.

The pianist realizes that appearing in front of audiences under such extreme conditions is imperative for any professional musician.

"Music is a perfect example of a language that communicates to everybody," the 23-year-old Juilliard graduate tells GO Brooklyn from his Manhattan home. "As artists, we have a real responsibility to our audiences. Music cannot die, especially because it heals so much. It’s a real healing mechanism that’s very strong, and it always has to stay alive."

But if you’re looking for an obvious link to the recent tragic events in his recital program, you won’t find it. Well, maybe in one instance, according to Goodyear.

"Music has always responded to many events in history," he explains, "and perhaps, unconsciously, that’s the reason why I programmed [Prokofiev’s] Piano Sonata No. 7 - which was inspired by the tragedy of World War II - in order to dedicate it to the memory of Sept. 11."

In addition to the physically challenging Prokofiev piece, Goodyear has fashioned a program that has an inner logic to its structure.

"For the first half, it’s organized very well," Goodyear says. "The Mozart sonata I’m playing [Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major] has variations on a theme in its first movement, and I follow that work with my own variations on the Beatles’ ’Eleanor Rigby,’ which has a narrative quality, just like the song does.

"It’s always been one of my favorite Beatles songs," Goodyear admits. "I was looking to do variations on a specific theme, and when I heard ’Eleanor Rigby’ on the radio one day, I realized that I had my theme! It’s a beautiful song."

Goodyear wanted to ensure that he would be playing pieces that organically complemented each other, even though the music spans nearly two centuries, from Mozart to McCartney, the latter of whom gets an arranging assist from the pianist.

"I just thought, what would fit well with what?" he says. "I was just concerned with simple form and flow, and I came up with Mozart and Chopin." Goodyear will be performing two Frederic Chopin pieces to begin the second half of the concert: the Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major and the Scherzo in C-sharp Minor.

"Mozart is very lyrical and even operatic in his style of writing for the piano, as is Chopin in his piano music, so they complement each other extremely well," he says. "And, at the other end, with Prokofiev, there’s a very dramatic, very dark scope - there’s a real intensity to his Sonata No. 7."

 

Stewart Goodyear will perform Mozart, McCartney, Chopin and Prokofiev at the Baptist Temple Church, 360 Schermerhorn St. at Third Avenue, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16 at 8 pm. Tickets are $50, $35 and $20 and can be purchased by calling (718) 622-5838.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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