Goode puts unique gloss on a difficult program

December 06, 1993|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

With the exception of Debussy's "Children's Corner" Suite, Richard Goode's program Saturday night in Shriver Hall was not one intended to charm or wow his audience: Schubert's unfinished Sonata in C (D.840), Beethoven's Fifteen Variations and Fugue in E-flat (opus 35) -- the so-called "Eroica" Variations -- and the same composer's opus 101 Sonata in A.

This is serious stuff -- as demanding for the performer as it is for the audience. Goode played so persuasively, however, that he made the program both charming and dazzling.

The Schubert sonata is a strange piece. The composer completely worked out the first two movements and -- after sketching out parts of the concluding minuet and finale -- abandoned the piece. One can guess at the reasons. The piano writing is uncompromising -- utterly different from anything Schubert had attempted before -- and represents an attempt at the orchestral keyboard style he was to perfect in the sonatas in G (D. 894) and A (D. 959).

This piece has attracted some powerful exponents -- Richter, Serkin and Brendel, among them -- but I've never looked forward to hearing it.

The next time Goode programs it, I will. This performance convinced me of the the music's greatness. Goode gauged the piece's quasi-orchestral explosions perfectly, giving it a sense of vTC scale and of developing momentum. He was also able to revel in the work's details -- the little digressions in which Schubert indulges himself -- without letting the piece disintegrate.

His performance of Beethoven's "Eroica" Variations -- another work of which I've never been particularly fond -- may have been even better.

This was a reading on the Curzon-Richter level, combining some of the former's charm, wit and polish with the latter's monumentalism and energy.

And yet it was a performance that could have been by no pianist other than Richard Goode. This is a man with an unerring grasp of Beethoven's formidable architecture.

One beautiful touch among many was the way in which the pianist played the variation just before the finale, endowing it with mystery and uncertainty that created an emotional need for the clarity and rigor of the concluding fugue.

The pianist played the same composer's opus 101 Sonata with mastery and wit that belied the awkwardness of its writing.

And his delicately colored performance of the Debussy suite served to remind us that Goode, who is among our greatest exponents of the Viennese classics, is wonderful at almost anything he touches.

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