Care and great conviction yield superb performance

Piano: The evening with Richard Goode was unified by an emphasis on sonority, clarity and expressivity.

Howard Live

February 10, 2005|By Eileen Soskin | Eileen Soskin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Richard Goode's performance Saturday night, a benefit for the Candlelight Concert Society, was simply superb. The compositions in the beautifully chosen program - Bach's Partita No. 6, Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19, Beethoven's Sonata Op. 109, Debussy's Preludes, Volume I, and, as an encore, Chopin's Nocturne Op. 55 No. 2 - highlighted contrasting periods and styles, but the evening's performance was unified by an emphasis on sonority, clarity and expressivity.

This was Goode's 14th concert for Candlelight, which celebrated its founding 32 years ago.

Until about 100 years ago, most composers were also performers and vise versa. During his lifetime, Bach was more admired as an organist than a composer, and he had an astonishing reputation as an improviser. Beethoven, arriving in Vienna at age 22, quickly established himself as a pianist, an improviser and a composer. Goode ably immersed himself in the demands of each work. He performed in ways that made them seem less like brilliant interpretations and more like discoveries of each composition as a fresh and living thing.

One audience member said that during the first piece on the program, Bach's Partita No. 6, she thought: "Why don't they give other performers great pianos, like this one?" but then she realized it was not the piano, but the pianist who was extraordinary. Goode draws an enormous array of colors from the piano, created by something far beyond dynamics, something that certainly has a lot to do with his pedaling.

The Schoenberg, a collection of six very short compositions, insists on repeating motives, clusters and dissonances, ever so gently convincing our ears that these pitches belong together. Goode performed them with tender loving care and great conviction.

Beethoven's Op. 109, in Goode's performance, combines playfulness with virtuosity in its first two movements. The third movement's theme and the technically demanding variations that follow rival the third movement of Op. 132 as one of Beethoven's mostly exalted hymns. When the opening theme returns at the close of the third movement, one felt completely satiated, as if one had just completed a 10-course meal.

After intermission, Goode's performance of the Debussy Preludes revealed his ability to completely inhabit extremely French rhythms, harmonies and melodies. Many of these pieces present events assigned to specific registers (high, middle and low), and Goode articulated these layers with apparent ease. He was at his most gracious in two of the most atmospheric pieces, Pre- ludes No. 6, "Des pas sur la neige," and No. 11, "La danse de Puck."

The audience, through its applause, begged Goode for an encore, which he provided, prefacing his performance of the late Chopin Nocturne, Op. 55 No. 2, with the remark that "Debussy revered Chopin."

Chopin, reputedly one of the greatest improvisers, wrote music that captures an improvisatory feeling in its incessant variation and elaboration of melodic events, and Goode's encore showed, again, how well-suited his playing is to art, which comes to life through the passion and commitment of an ardent interpreter.

At every turn, in every piece, Goode mastered the masters and, in so doing, once again earned our respect as a true master himself.

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