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Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Complete Ballet Arranged for Solo Piano / Stewart Goodyear

Release Date: 10/09/2015
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30040 Spars Code: n/a
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Performer:  Stewart Goodyear Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Multi Length: 1 Hours 22 Mins.

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

"As a youngster in Toronto, the pianist Stewart Goodyear loved listening to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” over and over. Also a composer, Mr. Goodyear channeled his love for the work into his own elaborate, detailed and utterly captivating arrangement for solo piano, which he plays magnificently on this new recording. Like Liszt, a master at transcribing symphonic music for the piano, Mr. Goodyear honors Tchaikovsky’s music through his ingenious arrangement. Without its colorful orchestral enrichments, the score comes through here with stunning freshness and detail, thanks to the elegant, impressively articulate playing."
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-- Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"Ten Fingers, One Nutcracker. Pianist Stewart Goodyear’s piano transcription of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is so high spirited and idiomatically pianistic it might make you forget about the orchestral version. OK, an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Goodyear takes on the full ballet, and the slimming down of voices and colors has the effect of making unexpected connections. An especially compelling sequence: the way he evokes the chimes of midnight, and the tree-growing music that follows — a big moment for the orchestra, but here it does not want for rapture."

-- Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer [10/25/2015]

It’s tempting to scoff at the idea of The Nutcracker arranged for solo piano. After all, Tchaikovsky’s score is a masterpiece of melody and orchestration, and it’s easy to think that removing the latter would make for a lesser, inauthentic experience. Stewart Goodyear’s brilliant arrangement powerfully disproves this notion. So true it is to the style, nature, and spirit of the music, that not long into the performance you forget about the missing orchestra and focus instead on Tchaikovsky’s beguiling music. Indeed, you gain a new appreciation for the fecundity of Tchaikovsky’s melodic and harmonic invention in Goodyear’s exceptionally accomplished performance.

Even so, there’s a limit to what ten fingers can do, and Goodyear’s stirring Battle with the Mouse King Army does not include the military fanfares (played on trumpet in the orchestral version), and we are made to do without the ethereal sound of the children’s chorus in Dance of the Snowflakes. But overall, Goodyear’s playing is cause to marvel. He expectedly brings off the character dances with impressive finesse, but a greater test is in the dramatic passage just before the Battle scene, where Goodyear successfully delineates Tchaikovsky’s harmonically and contrapuntally complex writing to make it sound as clear and powerful as the orchestral original.

Steinway’s recording presents the piano naturally in an ideally balanced acoustic space, so nothing gets in the way of your enjoyment. Highly recommended.

Artistic Quality: 10; Sound Quality: 10
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

"Stewart Goodyear's piano arrangement of the complete ballet is a fascinating example of the art of transcription, and the pianist deserves credit not only for his ingenious handling of Tchaikovsky's orchestration in terms of the keyboard's sonorities, but also for playing with close attention to details and tone colors that give the music its fantastic character. This Steinway & Sons recording is certainly a delight for its energy and brilliance, and fans of piano music will appreciate Goodyear's cleverness in adapting such perennial favorites as the Overture, the March, the Divertissements, and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, which are familiar as the Nutcracker Suite."

-- AllMusic Guide

"Another piece that harkens back to my formative years is Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker although my exposure, like that of so many others I’m sure, was just to the eight-movement Suite Op.71a. My introduction was on a 3-LP Seraphim set of suites from the ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Efrem Kurtz. No wonder then that so many of the 24 tracks on Stewart Goodyear’s transcription for solo piano of the entire ballet (Steinway & Sons 30040) seem unfamiliar. Somehow we missed this disc, recorded in February 2015, when it came out. Since then two Christmases, the traditional Nutcracker time, have come and gone. Rather than wait another year I want to tell you about this new approach to what is indeed a timeless classic. In the words of the performer/arranger 'You can look at The Nutcracker as the Walt Disney of music. It enchants on the same levels as Disney does: there’s the humour; for some, there’s the love story; for some, adventure. All those aspects are there: it’s like listening to Technicolor, listening to animation.' You would be forgiven for thinking that Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous orchestration which incorporates so many colours into its palette might suffer in translation to a single instrument, and for that matter a single performer. But I’m here to tell you that Goodyear’s thoughtful treatment and virtuosic flamboyance give the lie to this. “I’m just trying to create as faithful an arrangement as possible” says Goodyear, “with all of the orchestral elements there – the woodwinds, the brass, so it doesn’t feel like the audience is missing anything – it’s all there.” I would have to say that he succeeds. And when I said just a single instrument, I will note that there is one exception to this: At the outset of the pitched battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King we are momentarily startled by the sharp crack of a slapstick which announces the Keystone Kops-like action sequence. All in all, this is an outstanding and exhilarating achievement and I’m sorry it took so long to come to my attention."

-- David Olds, The Whole Note

"The Toronto-born composer and pianist Stewart Goodyear admits to a long-term love affair with The Nutcracker. He transcribed the March, before deciding to tackle the complete ballet. Others have restricted themselves to the suite, among them the composer Anton Arensky and the pianist Nicolas Economou. In 1983 the latter recorded his two-piano arrangement with Martha Argerich (Deutsche Grammophon). Then there’s conductor-pianist Mikhail Pletnev’s reduction for piano solo, which dates from 1978. I had the pleasure of hearing Alexandra Dariescu play a selection from that as part of her recent all-Tchaikovsky recording for Signum.

From the well-turned Overture it’s clear that Goodyear’s Nutcracker is not only virtuosic, it’s also highly individual. One could argue, for example, that The Christmas Tree is over-decorated; the effect is not unpleasant, but the result is more Goodyear than Tchaikovsky. That said, the crisply articulated March is splendid, as is the Galop and Dance of the Parents. But despite Goodyear’s penchant for embellishment I can’t fault his pianism, which is assured and propulsive throughout. He also brings a weight to the music that’s lacking in the light, rather ‘pretty’ Argerich/Economou recording.

The Grandfather Dance is another of those sections where one is inclined to admire the musician rather than the music. It’s a niggle rather than a no-no, and it doesn’t really detract from the performance as a whole. Goodyear certainly has a feel for overall pace and dramatic thrust; he’s particularly adept at building tension, and he gives the score just enough ballast to suggest orchestral weight and amplitude. There’s an element of fantasy too, especially at the start of Clara and the Nutcracker, and that’s very welcome. Perhaps even more remarkable is the sheer consistency and coherence of this arrangement, which is generally free of flat-spots.

As a player he’s sensitive to shape and style, avoiding the self-indulgent swooning that mars Argerich and Economou’s otherwise entertaining performance. After a rousing battle Goodyear leads us into a truly wondrous account of the Transformation Scene and The Pine Forest in Winter. Indeed, for the very first time in this recording I was transported to the theatre, now firmly under the spell of this charming tale. It’s epiphanies like this that make one forget earlier caveats and criticisms; not only that, one is reminded of what an Olympian task this is, and how this pianist is able to connect with the score at these vital points.

Goodyear’s fondness for floridity may not be to everyone’s taste, but it works a treat in the lovely Waltz of the Snowflakes. At times this arrangement can seem a little too declamatory, but who could quibble with the seamless line of The Magic Castle, which is so atmospherically evoked? Even more impressive is the way that Goodyear segues so easily between sections, the Divertissement slipping in almost unnoticed. His flair for Tchaikovsky’s rhythms is undeniable, the distinctive sonorities and character of the showpieces a special delight. Indeed, the Arabian Dance is simply spell-binding. And what about the spirited Trepak and Polchinelle? Worth encores on their own.

One of two things is happening here: either Goodyear – the pianist and the arranger – is improving as the piece progresses, or I’m just getting to like the cut of his gybe. Actually, it’s probably a bit of both. That sense of involvement is helped in no small measure by the astonishing fidelity and focus of this fine recording, produced by Dan Merceruio and engineered by Daniel Shores. The Waltz of the Flowers is elegantly done – Goodyear’s trills and flourishes entirely apt in this context – and, bizarre as it may seem, his rhythmic verve suddenly made me want to hear him play Joplin.

What I miss in the Economou arrangement is a sense of excitement, of inexorable build ups, and that’s precisely what Goodyear delivers in his thrilling – and thoroughly orchestral – Intrada. As if that weren’t enough, he artfully mimics the silvery tinkle of the celesta in The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Goodyear brings the dream to an end with playing that had me in goose-bumps all over. This is another of those transfiguring moments, as much a soaring triumph for the pianist-arranger as it is for the composer himself.

Goodyear is no stranger to Olympus, having already recorded all 32 Beethoven sonatas for Marquis. For Steinway he’s tackled the Grieg Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s First (STNS 30035), plus Rachmaninov’s Second and Third (STNS 30047). And going back twenty years there’s some Gershwin with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops (Telarc 80445). He’s certainly a pianist to watch, and I’d love it if he and Steinway/Sono Luminus could record some Joplin and/or Gershwin. Incidentally, the SACD, derived from the 24/192 master recordings, sounds every bit as good as this download. As for the notes, they read more like a promotional brochure than a bona-fide booklet. For once, though, that hardly seems to matter.

Stewart Goodyear is a prodigious talent and, despite minor caveats, his Nutcracker arrangement must be counted a resounding success; factor in superior sonics and this becomes a very desirable issue indeed."

-- Dan Morgan, MusicWeb International

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Proclaimed "a phenomenon" by the Los Angeles Times and "one of the best pianists of his generation" by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Stewart Goodyear is an accomplished young pianist as a concerto soloist, chamber musician, recitalist and composer.

In March 2015, Stewart played all 32 Beethoven sonatas in recital, in a single day, in Dallas TX.

Mr. Goodyear's recording of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto and Grieg's Piano Concerto, with the Czech National Symphony under Stanislav Bogunia, was released to critical acclaim on the Steinway and Sons label in June 2014.

For his third Steinway & Sons label release, the Canadian, by way of Toronto, pianist returns to the music of Tchaikovsky, only this time with a world premiere recording, of the complete Nutcracker ballet arranged for and recorded on solo piano.

"A high-octane performance that punches above its weight." Gramophone Magazine on Tchaikovsky & Grieg Concertos (STNS 30035)

"Exultantly phrased, expertly articulated and expansively engineered first-rate BBC Music Magazine on Rachmaninov Concertos 2 & 3."(STNS 30047)


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