Richard Goode at Royal Festival Hall – Schumann & Chopin

Schumann
Kinderszenen, Op.15
Kreisleriana, Op.16
Chopin
Nocturne in E flat, Op.55/2
Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op.39
Waltzes – in A flat, Op.64/3; in C sharp minor, Op.64/2; in F, Op.34/3
Ballade in A flat, Op.47

Richard Goode (piano)


Reviewed by: Tully Potter

Reviewed: 12 February, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Richard Goode. Photograph: Sascha GusovRichard Goode’s playing always has an inner strength that makes for most satisfying listening in Bach and the Viennese Classical works. How would he fare in the High Romantic period in this International Piano Series matinee recital? I came away highly pleased with my two hours spent in Goode’s company, so let me get my one grouse out of the way: that he never played really softly: he did very well at p and even suggested pp, but ppp was not in evidence. Was the large hall affecting him?

Hearing Schumann’s two consecutive opuses from 1838 one after the other was splendid; and Goode made me feel that even Kinderszenen hangs together as an entity. The more virtuosic sections were played with superb technical address, immense character and hardly a smudge. The slower, quieter pieces such as ‘Bittendes Kind’ or ‘Träumerei’ were kept moving, so that they emerged as tender but not sentimental.

With Kreisleriana, Goode was on a fruitful mission in keeping it all on a fairly tight string, so that this mighty work passed by without the tension breaking. Having just seen The Tales of Hoffmann at English National Opera, I suppose I missed a little of the fantasy of Kapellmeister Kreisler, but there was ample compensation in Goode’s wonderful depth of tone and effortless cantabile (on an excellent Steinway).

Having originally specified a Nocturne and the B minor Sonata for his Chopin sequence, Goode changed it completely, even choosing a different Nocturne; but keeping to just a handful of keys imposed some coherence, which was enhanced by the performances. Although he produced some lovely sound at the top of the keyboard, Goode kept more or less to the approach he had taken in Schumann. The two big challenges, the Scherzo and the Ballade, came off particularly strongly. Everything was well played on a technical level and each piece emerged fully formed.

I realise this is not what some people expect from their Chopin pianists, and I daresay a few members of the audience wanted more ‘poetry’. Goode offered two encores, of which I particularly enjoyed the C major Mazurka (Opus 24/2), some of his very best pianism.


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