Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Stewart Goodyear
Steinway & Sons STNS 30040
Classical - Instrumental
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (trans. Stewart Goodyear)
Stewart Goodyear (piano)
Review by John Broggio - February 24, 2017
A debut for both label and pianist - and what a debut!
The pianist Stewart Goodyear grew up enchanted listening, amongst other things, to the entire Nutcracker ballet. Not having his musical appetite sufficiently sated by Mikhail Pletnev's outstanding suite from the ballet, he made his own arrangement and performs it here. On the evidence of Goodyear's playing, one can easily imagine him following Pletnev into conducting as well - the sounds he produces (in large part the arrangement but also his execution of it) are wonderfully evocative of the orchestral so deftly scored for by Tchaikovsky. In all except one case, the Intrada of the concluding Pas de deux, Goodyear's arrangement completely captivates the ear so that the orchestra is not missed. The Intrada, as conceived by Pletnev (and heard to brilliant effect in PianOrchestra - Poizat) at its climax is just that bit more "unbuttoned" in reflecting the swirling textures of the orchestra; but that is a minor quibble about a minute or so of over 80 minutes worth of delightful reworking of Tchaikovsky's enchanting score.
Tempo choices are all fairly swift and Goodyear even manages to deliver the score in a shorter time than Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker - Jarvi while at no stage making the music feel rushed at all. The tone that Goodyear extracts from a very clear-toned Steinway is never hectoring, not in the densest passage work - a tribute to both the player and the technicians. Best of all though is the way that Goodyear manages to evoke the story as effectively as many an orchestral version (indeed it is fairly easy to find less engaging & more monochrome orchestral accounts than what is on offer here), for that alone this disc is a tremendous achievement that deserves to find its place in every lover of piano playing or Tchaikovsky's ballet.
The venue for the recording was Sono Luminus Studios and their engineering team did the honours for Goodyear: the Steinway is rich & clear no matter how rich the textures become, no mean feat. The notes are short but focused on what makes this account of the Nutcracker unique but this shouldn't sway anyone one way or another.
Extraordinarily good playing coupled with a very fine recording - very highly recommended.
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