Richard Goode presents Janacek, Schumann and Debussy

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Richard Goode presents Janacek, Schumann and Debussy

Post by Ricordanza » Sun May 04, 2014 10:51 am

I’ll begin with my conclusion: he just keeps getting better.

Nearly every season, Richard Goode returns to the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society stage for an eagerly awaited piano recital. Sometimes, as in last season, Goode programs his “specialty,” Beethoven, and reinforces the impression that he is the ideal Beethoven pianist. But on Tuesday evening, April 29, Goode presented a program of a decidedly un-Beethoven type: collections of short pieces infused with the Romantic notion of telling a story or painting a musical picture. And it was no surprise to long-time fans that Goode’s performances were completely in character with these pieces. His playing was vivid and imaginative, and, in places, displayed just the right touch of bravura to provide the maximum experience for this type of music.

Goode began with four selections from a set of pieces by the early 20th Century Czech composer Leos Janàček entitled, “On an Overgrown Path.” Each of the pieces effectively conveyed a visual image or a mood, but Janàček’s relatively modest offerings were overshadowed by the great works of imagination that followed.

Next, he presented the wonderful set of 18 pieces by Robert Schumann entitled, Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David). This “League” was a product of Schumann’s rich imagination--its main members were two aspects of Schumann’s personality, Florestan, the impetuous rebel, and Eusebius, the more restrained dreamer. Goode’s performance matched the widely varied moods and expressions, and his technical mastery sparked a conversation at intermission about his age. One concertgoer opined that Goode is about 80, while another countered that he’s “only” in his mid-sixties. The answer is that Goode is a month away from turning 71, but whatever his age, his command of the keyboard remains impressive.

After intermission, the program and the playing became, for this listener, even better, as Goode presented the complete Book 1 of Debussy’s Preludes. A couple of these pieces are well known and frequently played: “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” and “The Sunken Cathedral.” But it was a joy to hear some of the lesser-known works, but works of genius nonetheless. These included No. 3, “The Wind in the Plain,” No. 4, “The Sounds and Fragrances Swirl through the Evening Air,” and No. 7, “What the West Wind has Seen.” The last of these is particularly virtuosic; it’s a superb antidote to the stereotype of Debussy as the “impressionist” who only produced soft confections of delicate sounds. Throughout the 12 pieces of this set, Goode provided the delicacy as well as the pianistic fireworks.

Goode performed only one encore, a delicious rendition of Ondine from Book 2 of Debussy’s Preludes.

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