The Shatford Centre auditorium was buzzing as the audience gathered to hear pianist-composer Stu Goldberg perform on June 1.
A beautiful Bechstein Studio Grand gleamed on the stage. The antique Scandinavian instrument was a generous donation to the Shatford Centre by Bea Smith. It had been skillfully fine-tuned by piano technician Andrew Wedman.
Goldberg said a few words of introduction then sat down to play. Gentle meditative sounds gradually developed into bold chords and glittering passages cascading up and down the keys. He introduced the next piece, his own composition titled To My Father, a melody with graceful embellishments and a nostalgic feel. In the third piece, Spirits, Goldberg pulled out all the stops. He improvised with virtuosic skill. Rhythmic basses were combined with scales in break-neck tempos. He reached into the instrument and strummed and plucked the strings.
To commemorate the Scandinavian heritage of the piano, Goldberg included his arrangement of Sibelius’ Symphonic Theme of Finlandia. Dramatic tremolos with effective pauses lead into the hymn-like melody which first appeared simply, then over an intricate sound texture.
The concert continued with music Goldberg had written for his wife titled Yvonne. Its tenderness and comforting harmonies were touching. It was followed by two improvised pieces that included blues passages and Latin rhythms. Far from showing signs of fatigue, Goldberg seemed to draw from an unending source of energy. His agile hands raced over the keyboard and pounded out thundering bass chords. In the last piece, Dedication, the sale passages sounded more like glides than individual notes. There was a clear structure with two beginning themes, a longer middle section, and a reappearance of the first themes. The audience rose with enthusiastic applause and was treated to an encore: Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee.
Goldberg’s concert was a historic event for the Shatford Centre. With the beautiful Bechstein Grand complementing its auditorium, we can look forward to many future concerts by talented musicians.
Roswitha Masson is a symphony concert reviewer in Penticton.