Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; plus works by Anthony Davis, Debussy, Stewart Goodyear and Jennifer Higdon
Stewart Goodyear (piano)
Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0154 66:35 mins
Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition forms the bulk of Stewart Goodyear’s latest recital recording. The Canadian pianist takes the main promenade theme at a brisk pace – by its fifth appearance we’re practically strutting through the halls – and each portrait is played with sensitivity and drama. Steven Osborne’s Hyperion recording has the edge in terms of sound quality.
Before we enter the gallery, there’s an unusual programme that positions Debussy’s ‘The Sunken Cathedral’ and The Joyful Islandalongside contemporary works. Goodyear brings a light touch to Anthony Davis’s highly contrasting and bravura Middle Passage; he is meditative in Jennifer Higdon’s striking Secret and Glass Gardens. Two new arrangements of the pianist’s own ensemble works bookend Phoenix. ‘Congotay’ – originally written for quintet – takes inspiration from a Trinidadian expression that suggests that one day misdeeds will be paid for; this sentiment is hinted at in the terse melodies and spiky bass. Both ‘Congotay’ and the closing ‘Panorama’, taken from Callaloo, Goodyear’s suite for piano and orchestra (Orchid Classics), recast Caribbean sounds in the traditional classical mould. The transcription of ‘Congotay’ is neater, cleaner and preferable to the eclectic original (also Orchid Classics); ‘Panorama’ thrills for its variegated virtuosity and ear-worm tunes. Goodyear notes that the ashes from which his album Phoenix rises are the ‘soundworld, past traditions and gestures of Franz Liszt’ – something clearly reborn in this modern-day pianist-composer.