Goode earns his Peabody medal

Pianist's recital ends with award

Music Review

October 31, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Ferruccio Busoni, the fabled pianist and eclectic composer, declared that "everything is possible on the piano." That concept gets reinforced whenever Richard Goode performs at the keyboard.

In his recital at the Peabody Institute Tuesday night, Goode made the piano do lots of things - sing, sigh, dance, purr, paint (in pastels and rich colors).

It was the kind of playing that has earned him steady praise since his career started in the 1960s, and that also earned him the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America - presented at the conclusion of this performance by Peabody director Robert Sirota.

Goode devotes much of his attention to the cornerstones of keyboard literature - Bach, Brahms and the kind of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy that were included on the program here. Until this night, I had no idea that Elizabethan composer William Byrd was also among his interests.

Perhaps it's a new interest; Goode had the music in front of him for the two pairs of dances by Byrd that opened the recital. But the detailed, remarkably expressive way he delivered those dances - every melodic curve, every trill given its due - made clear that the pianist connects strongly to the animated elegance of Byrd's style.

In Mozart's A minor Sonata, K. 310, the outer movements had terrific momentum and force of attack, giving the music a Beethovian character. The middle movement unfolded with supple, serene lyricism.

Beethoven's E major Sonata, Op. 109, inspired a similarly involved and involving interpretation. Again, there was abundant heat for the propulsive moments (the second movement generated particular tension), exquisite warmth for the rest.

The finale, in particular, revealed the pianist's uncommon gift for aural poetry; it was easy here to sense the depth of the heart behind Beethoven's volatile nature.

And so it went throughout the evening. Goode invariably found the right touch, the right tone to communicate the essence of a score. His group of Debussy items cast quite a spell, full of shimmering sounds and rhythmic freedom.

Such freedom also marked Goode's approach to Chopin. The music never settled into routine patterns, but was always allowed room to flex and breathe. The Mazurkas, Op. 30, took on an especially telling air of spontaneity, not to mention passion.

This pianist never draws attention to technique, let alone to himself; the music remains center stage. There are, to be sure, many other ways of interpreting that music, other tonal palettes, other tempo choices. But, invariably, when he is at the keyboard, it's hard to imagine you can do much better than Goode.

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