Seen and Heard (MusicWeb International)
Richard Goode, Piano
Newtown Friends of Music
Edmond Town Hall, Newtown, Connecticut
September 16, 2007
J S Bach
Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 885 (Book II)
E major, BWV 792
E minor, BWV 793
G minor, BWV 797
E-flat major, BWV 791
Prelude and Fugue in B major, BWV 892 (Book II)
Haydn, Sonata in D major, Hoboken XVI:24
Beethoven, Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2
‘Sonata quasi una fantasia’
Debussy, Three Preludes
La cathédrale engloutie (Book I)
Ondine (Book II)
General Lavine - Eccentric (Book II)
Impromptu in F-sharp major, Op. 36
G major, Op. 50 No. 1
C major, Op. 24, No. 2
C-sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 3
Nocturne in B major, Opus 62, No. 1
Polonaise in F-sharp minor, Opus 44
So many pianists try to be flamboyant in their playing or exaggerated in their interpretations often to the point of affectation. Thus it is a particular pleasure to listen Richard Goode’s playing, which is all about the music—capturing the mood, transmitting a feeling without extraneous fanfare—it seems so reserved, but in a good way. I suspect it’s harder to be interestingly thoughtful and subtle than to come out with all barrels blazing. And what a treat to hear Richard Goode in the rather intimate setting of Newtown Connecticut’s Town Hall.
I never tire of hearing Goode’s intelligent rendering of Beethoven sonatas, this time, the so-called Moonlight. There’s nothing melodramatic or sappy about Goode’s articulation, and instead of the usual Chopin-like romanticism one hears in the first movement so often, Goode emphasized the dark melody in the base and the brooding quality of C-sharp minor was more redolent of a moldering grave than anything light or frilly. It was remarkably and rivetingly effective.
Goode began his recital with a selection of Bach put together like a baroque suite. The clarity of his articulation and the beautiful subtlety in his phrasing seemed so natural and unforced that it was easy to forget one's reviewing duties and simply enjoy the music. How utterly pleasant.
Similarly, Goode’s Haydn was immaculate, and moving from baroque to classical brought a fierceness and urgency to the playing that ripped along at a great rate of many notes per second—delightful.
The Beethoven followed, and you could feel the expressive range growing with the chronology. Lots of sforsandos, great dynamic range. And then after intermission, a leap across all of romanticism directly to three Debussy preludes. I wondered how Goode’s clean lines and elegant phrasing would match up with the slowly emerging images Debussy painted in the preludes. I needn’t have worried. Clarity and precision, Goode’s hallmarks, combined with his intellectual understanding of the works, created what felt like newly cleaned artwork glowing in freshly polished frames.
Then back to romanticism for a bookend collection of Chopin movements to balance the synthesized Bach suite at the opening. It was a long concert and, surprisingly, the Chopin felt murky by comparison to the rest of the performances. I’ve heard Goode play Chopin with the ferocity of a middle Beethoven sonata, and it works beautifully, but this was more of a relaxed finish to the afternoon.
Goode is a transporting performer, an intellectual with plenty of technique to communicate his thoughts about the music. Nothing is ill-considered or dashed off without careful consideration. It’s as though he has considered just how every note in the piece should be played. He is intense without being showy, correct without being stuffy, original without outlandishness. Goode allows us to hear new things and it’s a treat. He sets a standard of excellence that few can match.