- Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor ("Tempest"), Op. 31/2
Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear garnered considerable publicity for a marathon performance in Toronto of all of Beethoven's sonatas, followed by a recording of the whole cycle. This single-disc album on Marquis offers excerpts from the complete set, and it's a reasonable sampling even if few listeners would nominate the forbidding "Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 (Hammerklavier)" as a favorite Beethoven sonata. As it happens, that sonata offers a good example both of Goodyear's playing in general and of his strengths. He takes the "Hammerklavier" finale at Beethoven's original metronome marking of half note=138, a tempo that has generally been thought excessive and probably erroneous due to the imprecision of early metronomes. Goodyear's argument in favor of its validity is impressive: his reading is indeed awesomely fast, but it's never out of control, and in his hands the "Hammerklavier" simply joins the finale of the "Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125," and other late Beethoven works as music that was intended to be at the edge of playability. In general, Goodyear takes dangerously fast tempos, and for the most part pulls them off. Do not sample the "Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique)," at the beginning: it is the exception to the general style, with a measured, almost intellectual dissection of a tumultuous early sonata. Goodyear's carefully considered slow movement here gives the music its proper weight. More typical is the finale of the "Piano Sonata No. 23 in F sharp minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)," and this blistering but pearly essay in pianism makes a good place to start in sampling. Goodyear's most unorthodox and perhaps least successful interpretation is that of the "Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a (Les adieux)," whose programmatic sentiments are lost in a crunch of fast, abstract shapes. But in general this is both a technically and an interpretively daring approach to Beethoven, and it's convenient to have a representative sampling of his entire set.