Richard Goode, Royal Festival Hall
Monday 13 February 2012
The American pianist Richard Goode doesn’t
give many recitals, but his uniquely personal vision ensures that each one is
This befits a musician who waited until he was nearly fifty before conquering the stage-fright which had confined him to chamber music, and then taking the plunge as a soloist. His Brahms and Beethoven are magisterial, but what draws the crowd is his singular aura, and the intensely-pondered quality of his playing.
Here he opened with Schumann’s Kinderszenen, thirteen short pieces in which the world of childhood is evoked from the perspective of maturity, with the intention of conveying, as Schumann put it to his young bride Clara, an atmosphere which was ‘peaceful, tender, and happy, like our future’. And so it was as Goode launched into the first piece, ‘Of strange lands and people’. He made the piano sing with a sweet artlessness, establishing an intimate and confidential tone which he then maintained throughout. ‘Important event’ felt important only in a play-acting sense, ‘Reverie’ was not over-dramatised, and the rocking-horse knight rode out bravely; ‘Child falling asleep’ suggested folds within folds, and in the concluding ‘The poet speaks’ that poet was indubitably Goode himself. The keyboard was touched rather than struck, and the tone wonderfully controlled.
Then came the Kreisleriana suite, a more showy and extravert work, but with Goode this too had a lovely subtlety. He opened extremely fast, projecting a relatively small sound with such expressiveness that one seemed to be hearing this complex work for the first time; conceiving its episodic structure in very long spans, he gave it unusual cohesion. A stumble prevented him giving its most pyrotechnical section full rein, but the overall effect was fascinating.
For his second half Goode chose Chopin, and adopted a completely different touch: while his Schumann had been suggestive and inward, here he was up-front. But not enough. If there were no false histrionics in his performance of the third Scherzo, neither was there the requisite showmanship, and the piece felt seriously underpowered; he seemed to take no delight in the passage-work which is the key to this majestic music. And his final big piece – Ballade No 3 in A flat major – simply wasn’t big enough in its conception. First encore, a Chopin Mazurka; second encore, more Schumann, and exquisite.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Greece crisis: Alexis Tsipras accepts troika bailout proposals with conditions
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
The Rolling Stones announce biggest ever touring rock exhibition with Saatchi Gallery
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Guillaume Tell gang-rape scene causes uproar at the Royal Opera House
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS