Goode Variations

Classic Arts Features   Goode Variations
Pianist Richard Goode presents a remarkable diversity in his Carnegie Hall Perspectives concerts this season, which start with a recital on December 2.

To call Richard Goode's Perspectives concerts eclectic would be an understatement. With music spanning three centuries, he has created interesting programs reflecting his wide-ranging tastes. "I'm not particularly keen on thematic programs, which have a certain didactic quality," he explains. "So this is a series with two parts that are only tangentially related: the classical aspect, with Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn, and the Schoenberg and Janácek of the second part."

The first part unfolds in four December events: a solo piano recital on December 2, two chamber music concerts on December 7 and 13, and a lecture-demonstration on December 11. For the December 7 concert, Goode decided to include neglected works of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, such as the Mozart Sonata for Piano Four Hands in F Major and the Haydn Piano Trio in E-flat Major. "The Mozart is a great masterwork you probably won't get a chance to hear unless you're a pianist playing with friends," the pianist says, "and the Haydn trios make up a wonderful and varied body of repertoire that are infrequently performed." Also on the program are Haydn vocal quartets, which Goode says "have a great range of character from elegies to drinking songs."

Other works, such as the Mozart D-Major String Quintet on the December 13 program, represent Goode's personal wish list. "When thinking which Mozart to program," he says, "I thought if I could hear one large-scale Mozart chamber work it would be the D-Major Quintet, the most distilled piece of the composer's last period. It has always been a special piece for me. The slow movement has one of Mozart's strangest and most mystifying passages."

The cornerstone of the first part of Goode's Perspectives will be his solo recital in Stern Auditorium on December 2, devoted to Beethoven sonatas. Beethoven will also be the subject of a lecture-demonstration on December 11 in Weill Recital Hall. Goode decided that it would be interesting to look at one work in particular, Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110, which he has played for a long time, but which he still finds mysterious.

The link between these classical works and the repertoire of the ensuing concerts in the spring, Goode explains, is Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3, which will be performed on January 20 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer. Goode is particularly enthusiastic about performing the work, and describes it as "a great classical concerto that happens to have been written in 1945. It forms a bridge between the classical composers and the program of my later Perspectives concerts."

Those later events highlight another side of Goode's musical interests. The January 14 concert with mezzo Tamara Mumford and tenor Matthew Polenzani features songs of Schubert and Janácek. While the two composers may seem like strange bedfellows, Goode finds an intriguing connection between them, because, as he says, "they are both extraordinarily direct in their immediacy of expression, both extremely vocal."

The February 12 concert with soprano Dawn Upshaw and Pomerium vocal ensemble features the haunting madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo and Schoenberg's The Book of the Hanging Gardens. "I thought that pairing Gesualdo and Schoenberg would give an interesting juxtaposition of the chromaticism of the 16th and 20th centuries."

A Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall at this point in his career has offered Goode a felicitous opportunity to consider his art and life. When asked, for example, if he listens to his old recordings, Goode says firmly that he doesn't look back, although he can see changes in his approach to music. "I used to think that extremely fast tempos were necessary, and now I think what really matters is the speed of the events in the piece, and not the speed of the beat. I think people change differently. Some people like slower tempos as they age, others go the other way. I simply listen to what the music says to me at every point."

Vivien Schweitzer has written for TimeOut, Newsday, and the Financial Times.

Acclaimed Nonesuch recordings of Richard Goode playing Beethoven are now available from the Shop at Carnegie Hall. The Shop is located on the First Tier level of Stern Auditorium, adjacent to the Rose Museum.

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