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Richard Goode, FAES Swansong

The 40th season of the concert series sponsored by the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, which opened on Sunday afternoon with a recital by pianist Richard Goode in the relatively full Congregation Beth-El in Bethesda, will also be its final one. Dr. Giulio Cantoni, the founder of the series, passed away this summer, and Paola Saffiotti, the series' guiding light in many ways, was diagnosed with cancer around the same time. For financial reasons independent of these events, but certainly not helped by them, FAES will instead give funding to the Monday lunchtime concert series on the campus of the National Institutes of Health. Unfortunately, the heightened security at NIH and the time of those concerts make it unlikely that many people who are not employees of NIH will attend.

Ionarts last reviewed Richard Goode in February, and his current obsessions, also dominating the 2005 Carnegie Hall recital you can listen to from NPR, are Bach, Chopin, and Debussy. Beethoven, of course, has been a long-standing specialty. Goode created this excellent recital as a homage to Chopin, writing in his program essay that last fall he was "seized with a sudden desire to immerse myself in the music of Chopin. Suddenly, no other composer seemed as necessary or satisfying." Opening with a set of pieces by J. S. Bach, Goode displayed his solid style of playing Bach, with a gentle, introspective G minor prelude and its accompanying fugue with the string of repeated notes in the subject (from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier).

Richard Goode:
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Beethoven Sonatas

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Bach Partitas 1

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Bach Partitas 2
Four Sinfonias, also known as the three-part inventions, included a whirring treatment of the E major, an understated E minor with clear delineation of voices, and tidy embellishments in a calm reading of the E-flat major. The best piece in the set was last, the B major prelude and fugue (Book 2, WTC), with a very fast performance of the toccata-like prelude and a starry, exalted fugue. Two sonatas by Haydn and Beethoven admittedly had little to do with Chopin, but the Hadyn D major sonata (Hob. XVI:24) especially was a delight. It is rare enough to hear Haydn played and even rarer to hear it played this well. The first movement was jolly and playful but with an admirable light touch, not buffoonish. With a skillful manipulation of dynamic contrasts, Goode unfurled all of the delicate whorls of rocaille decoration in the second movement and gracefully negotiated the triple-meter presto.

One might have hoped for a Beethoven sonata other than one of the most famous ones, but Goode's interpretation of sonata no. 14 (known colloquially as the "Moonlight") was sharp and colorful, with a propelled and sonorous first movement of clanging chimes and a restrained second movement. The third movement was extremely agitated and booming, not without a few technical slips, but still quite remarkable for its virtuosity. Some of the strongest playing came in the Debussy set that opened the second half, because Goode is an exemplary colorist at the keyboard and has a fine sense of caricature. The fanciful filigree motifs of Ondine (Book 2) and the absurd circus atmosphere of Général Lavine--Eccentric (Book 2) were superbly drawn.

Other Reviews:

Robert Battey, Richard Goode (Washington Post, October 16)

Joseph Dalton, Shaky start for Union College Concert Series (Albany Times-Union, October 12)
Finally, we ended up with Chopin, beginning with a fluid reading of the F# minor impromptu and three mazurkas that all displayed Goode's folk-influenced and dance-oriented understanding of Chopin's treatment of the form. The high point of the set was an inspired performance of the B major nocturne (op. 62, no. 1), with an outstanding trill section and an exalted, ecstatic outburst at the midpoint, on that extraordinary right-hand run. Goode's playing may not always impress with the strongest virtuosity, as with someone like Evgeny Kissin, and his rendition of the F# minor polonaise (op. 44) showed a few cracks. Goode's strengths are in layering of voices and subtle characterization, which shone in this recital, alongside generally powerful technical playing.

The next concert in the FAES series' final season features violist Kim Kashkashian and pianist Lydia Artymiw (November 18, 4 pm), at Bethesda's Congregation Beth-El.

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