Goode's piano recital full of high points

November 25, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

It will be a long time before anyone in the audience at Richard Goode's piano recital Saturday night in Columbia's Candlelight Series hears again as remarkable a performance of Schubert's great B-flat Sonata (D. 960).

This is one of those pieces that -- in performance -- rarely lives up to its reputation as one of the supreme summits of the repertory. Schubert's achievement in following a slowish first movement with one that is both slow and sustained is remarkable, but it has made pianists miserable ever since. How does one find the emotional contrasts in music that can -- and usually does -- sound all too similar?

Goode's solution was to avoid the monumentality (and boredom) into which the first movement can sink. He subtly varied his tempos; he made the mysterious trill that pervades the movement -- sometimes like a distant roll of thunder and sometimes menacingly near -- speak with unusual eloquence; and he never let the line of the music sag.

By the time the pianist reached the calm of the coda, the listener felt he had been on a emotional journey through several shifting moods. What followed was just as extraordinary: a slow movement that was poignant and consoling; a scherzo that was light footed in its insouciance; and a final movement -- no one plays a rondo better than Goode -- that was majestic in scope and profoundly life-affirming.

It was a recital that was filled with high points. There were the long-breathed melodies in the resigned, melancholic slow movement of Mozart's Sonata in F Major (K. 533/494); the way in which Goode made his instrument sing in the adagio of Schubert's C Minor Sonata (D. 958) and turned its obsessive final movement -- without violating its essentially classical scale -- into a galloping dance of death; the delicacy of the pianist's treatment of three rarely heard miniatures by Mozart; and his tenderly ruminating way with Schubert's A-flat Impromptu (D. 935), which he played as an encore.

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