As we’re taking a look at ‘Love at First Listen’ stories, here’s one from someone whose entire life changed after hearing not one, but a set of thirty-two works for piano. It’s Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, whose career path was decided after he heard the sonatas by Beethoven. He was only three or four years old, but desperately wanted a multi-LP box set of the complete set after hearing them, and made the decision then and there to become a musician.
You can find out more about him at Stewart Goodyear’s website.
There are many popular sonatas by Beethoven: the ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Hammerklavier,’ ‘Waldstein’… but it wasn’t any one in particular that drew Goodyear in. “I heard these pieces all the way through when I was around 3 or 4 years old,” he says. “I begged my mother to buy me a box set of 13 LPs of the complete Beethoven sonatas. So it’s really going back to childhood. It was that day when I first heard these sonatas that compelled me to be a classical pianist…It hit me on such a gut level. It really did change my life. I was frightened by the music, I was enthralled, I was moved, I laughed at loud at some of the humorous aspects… I was hooked from that day.” And he continued to be fascinated by them, learning to play them all (he released a boxed set of his own a few years ago) and also playing what he calls ‘Sonatathons,’ with all 32 performed in chronological order in one day. “It feels like the sonatas are a very personal diary, and you’re looking into the soul of Beethoven. There are a lot of confessions written out. There are even more personal qualities in those late works… It’s almost as if he’s looking very much inward, and nothing matters except heart and mind.”
Here’s Stewart Goodyear playing the Beethoven sonata number 26 in E-flat Major, ‘Les Adieux’: