November 21, 2007

Captivating and Luminous

Richard Goode in Recital


Johann Sebastian Bach
Prelude and Fugue in g minor BWV 885 from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
15 Three-Part Inventions for Piano (Selection: #6, #7, #10, #11, #5)
Prelude and Fugue in B Major BWV 892from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II

Alban Berg
Piano Sonata Op. 1

Johannes Brahms
Seven Fantasies for Piano Op. 116

Claude Debussy
24 Preludes for Piano (Selection)
La Cathédrale engloutie
Général Lavine-eccentric

Frédéric Chopin
Impromptu in F-sharp Major Op. 36
Mazurka in G Major Op. 50 No. 1
Mazurka in C Major Op. 24 No. 2
Mazurka in c-sharp minor Op. 50 No. 3
Nocturne in B-Major Op. 62 No. 1
Polonaise in f-sharp minor Op. 44


Richard Goode - Piano

Leserbrief/readers comment Druckversion/printversion

Captivating and Luminous

Richard Goode in Recital

by Anicia Timberlake / Photo: Sascha Gusov

Richard Goode's recital was heard by an almost full house in the Kammermusiksaal of the Philharmonic last Wednesday night. The audience was captivated from the first moment by his exquisite Bach, and remained attentive through the two encores. Nary a cough was to be heard, nor a rustle of program or cough drop wrapper—perhaps the winter-time cartoon in the program asking people to muffle their sneezes contributed to the welcome silence? In any case, the feeling of so many people listening attentively added a great deal to the already excellent performance.

Richard Goode

Mr. Goode began his extensive program with a selection of Bach pieces, which he performed ascetically, with very distinct voices. He managed to convey a new color with each minute key change, imbuing each short piece with a complete and finished narrative, often lacking in performances of Bach. The rendition had a few Gouldish eccentricities: like Gould, he hummed audibly, and during the beginning of the fugues he conducted his left hand with his right. He performed with the music, and used it strategically, turning pages very fast between pieces to forestall applause.

Mr. Goode's interpretation of the Berg piano sonata, which the composer planned in three movements but executed in one because he had "said all there was to say," was equally pithy and flavorful. The piece is indeed short, so there is no time for the listener to relax and tune out-but paying close attention was no chore at all. Every single note spoke volumes, and it was clear that Mr. Goode had a very deep understanding of the music.

The Brahms Fantasies were a mixed bag. They are divided into two groups: four Intermezzi, which are more contemplative, and three Capriccios, which are more dashing and "romantic." The Intermezzi had the same wonderful qualities as the Bach and Berg: intensely packed with different colours and emotions, evocative and mature. The Capriccios, on the other hand, lacked recklessness. Or rather, it seemed like Mr. Goode was doing a great rendition of "reckless" without ever actually achieving total, convincing abandon—there was too little egoism, too little of the immature teenager.

The Debussy was also a tiny bit disappointing. The pieces were too present and too declamatory—to succumb to a Debussy cliché, they could have been a little more diaphanous, more capricious, more "impressionistic." Especially the first prelude, whose title in English can be translated as The Submerged (or Engulfed) Cathedral, was too logical and expository for a piece which describes a cathedral rising from murky waters for one day, only to return to its marine repose. The last selection, designated Dans le style et le mouvement d'un Cake-Walk, was delightfully quirky, but still, I wished for a little more outrageousness. The thoughtful subtleties that were so effective and moving in his Bach did not serve Mr. Goode so well here.

Given how the evening had developed so far, whereby the more expressive, romantic works had not been so convincing, I was not so thrilled that the closing works were by Chopin. And to be honest, I have yet to see what others see in Chopin: I usually find Chopin performances overblown and gushing with exaggerated emotion and notes. Biographical legend has it that Chopin spent months retouching and perfecting each piece—funny, then, that most people play them as if they were dashed off like hasty love letters. But Mr. Goode's rendition was breathtaking: luminous and simple. The best aspects of his Bach were present here as well: lyricism, intensity, attention to individual voices and tiny changes in mood. The Nocturne was the gem of the set—during a series of delicate, sincere trills, time almost stopped entirely.

Mr. Goode's two encores, another Chopin and a Bach, were stunningly executed. The concert was a true pleasure to attend.