Sonata in A minor, K310
March in C, K408
Courante in E flat, K399
Gigue in G, K574
Rondo in A minor, K511
Sonata in F, K533/494
Richard Goode (piano)
Recorded between 19-21 June 2003 and on 9 March 2004 in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: July 2005
CD No: NONESUCH
Duration: 60 minutes
At 59’32”, this is hardly the most generous of releases. However, like a very good meal, this collection has been planned with intelligence so that each successive course perfectly complements what has gone before and builds to a satisfying experience overall. Richard Goode is a Mozartian of real distinction. Above all, he never prettifies the music. His playing is muscular, natural and direct, giving full value to the angst of the A minor Sonata and encapsulating the very different, rococo world of the F major work.
In between the sonatas come three smaller works – a March, a Courante and a Gigue – as well as a masterpiece, the Rondo in A minor, its ten minutes speak with an almost unbearable poignancy of things perhaps only expressible in music: the pathos of life’s brevity and the inevitability of death. Goode’s performance of this alone would be worth the price of the disc: austere, understated but exerting an almost cathartic pull when the music finally switches, briefly, to the major key.
The three miniatures, the Gigue lasting only 90 seconds, are all highly characterised; the Gigue in particular is an oddball piece which appealed to composers as diverse as Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg, Tchaikovsky orchestrating it as the first movement of his ‘Mozartiana’ (Suite No.4) and Schoenberg modelling the Gigue of his Suite, Op.29 on Mozart’s theme.
Of the two contrasted sonatas, the A minor is contemporaneous with the ‘Paris’ Symphony and is Mozart at his most dramatic. Yet it’s a work difficult to bring off; Goode gives it its full stature and intensity without any hint of overplaying his hand. By contrast, the substantial F major is Mozart in ‘display’ mode. Elegant maybe but frequently contrapuntal, Goode reveals that there is much more to this music than mere show, especially in the extended slow movement with its echoes of the A minor Rondo. The Sonata closes with a discursive Allegretto, written separately (and catalogued by Köchel as K494), which has an almost Schubertian feel as it fades to its close.
On one well-planned disc Richard Goode manages to encapsulate the sheer diversity of Mozart’s piano music – its theatre, emotion and exhibition – with equal success. This is a considerable achievement, and Goode has been superbly recorded by the long-experienced Max Wilcox.