The great poems of Goethe have always attracted great composers. So it was only appropriate last night in the Candlelight Series at Howard Community College that a program of Goethe settings attracted two of the country's finest musicians, soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Richard Goode.
Concerts don't get any better than this program of lieder by Schumann, Schubert and Wolf.
Upshaw is best known as an interpreter in the Jan DeGaetani mold -- i.e. a singer who puts across the most difficult 20th-century compositions and makes them accessible. This recital demonstrated that she is also heir to the mantle of Elly Ameling: No one today sings the art songs of the 19th century more sensitively. She was able to make palpable the heartbreak of Schubert's "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel"; pour out the lyricism of Schumann's "Mignon"; and give full reign to the coquettishness of Wolf's "Die Sprade."
Her beautiful singing was beautifully partnered by Goode's expressive playing. Unlike most pianists at song recitals, Goode played with the lid up. This was a wise decision because he was, therefore, able to hear himself better, he was able to play more softly than had the lid muffled his sound. And when he played out -- without, by the way, overwhelming the singer -- it was thrilling.
Schubert was once very pleased to be told that his fingers at the keyboard sounded like singing. He would have loved Richard Goode.
Mr. Goode also played solo works, Schumann's "Arabesque" and Brahms' Four Piano Pieces of opus 119. All of it was beautiful.