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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2007

Stewart Goodyear, debuting with TSO, discovered piano at 3

Stewart Goodyear made his first recording at 14. Stewart Goodyear made his first recording at 14.

Stewart Goodyear, the 29-year-old pianist who will make his debut with the Toledo Symphony in its Classics concerts Friday and Saturday, says his life calling became clear early.

Very early.

At age 3, he first noticed piano music and had his major Aha! moment, he said earlier this year. By age 4, Goodyear, a Toronto native, was banging away at a toy piano, playing music by ear. (Linus would have been proud at least until Charlie Brown s Beethoven-loving friend realized he was outplayed.)

Just a year later, the little boy whose mother encouraged his keyboard study was leading her to record stores, buying albums by Vladimir Ashkenazy, Vladimir Horowitz, and other world-beating pianists.

There was just an instinct in me, Goodyear told the public radio station in Rochester, N.Y., last winter. He simply was drawn to the very best performances. And though there was always music in his home, he held out for his first love.

I knew there was a real piano somewhere, he recalled. (Goodyear was touring in South America and was unavailable to be interviewed for this story.)

After the family purchased a full-size instrument for their prodigy, Goodyear s mastery of the piano raced along. He took lessons, learned general music as a student at an all-boy Toronto choir school, and generally gained the attention of the international music world.

Initially, I wanted to be a conductor, Goodyear said. But by age 14, he was making his first recording the LeRoy Anderson Concerto and Gershwin s Second Rhapsody with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and conductor Erich Kunzel.

Contacted by Kunzel, whose first soloist had been unable to perform, Goodyear had two weeks to learn the music.

I didn t have time to learn how crazy it was, he recalled.

Since that benchmark moment, Goodyear has performed to high praise with the Philadelphia, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Toronto symphonies. He has stretched his talent to include composition.

Always, he brings his own style to his performances, a style informed by jazz, folk, and other musical forms. I love all styles of music. It s hard not to, Goodyear said.

One of the hallmarks of his concert style is to improvise his own cadenzas, those classical riffs most soloists cover with some other composer s work. The pianist says he is inspired by early composers who were expected to come up with fresh cadenzas for each performance.

In his Toledo Symphony appearances, Goodyear won t be able to show off his creativity as he is performing both of the Shostakovich piano concertos. Written in 1933 and 1958 the latter a birthday present for Dmitri Shostakovich s son, Maxim these lively, angular works are cadenza-free.

Joining Goodyear for the first of the two concertos will be Toledo Symphony principal trumpet, Lauraine Carpenter.

Principal conductor Stefan Sanderling will start off the program with Beethoven s Egmont Overture, written for the dramatic tragedy penned by Goethe. Following the two Russian works will be Franz Josef Haydn s majestic Symphony No. 104, the London Symphony. It s so named as it rounded out the dozen works Haydn composed in honor of the city he loved.

Goodyear will also perform with the symphony on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Corpus Christi Church, part of the symphony s Neighborhood Concerts. And on Friday, before the Classics concert, the pianist will make an appearance at McKinley School.

Tickets for the Classics concerts are $20 to $47 at www.toledosymphony.com or 419-246-8000.

Contact Sally Vallongo at svallongo@theblade.com or 419-724-6101.

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