Richard Goode at Wigmore Hall – Bach & Chopin

Italian Concerto, BWV971
Das wohltemperierte Klavier – Book II, BWV870-893: Prelude and Fugue in F, BWV880 & Prelude and Fugue in G-minor, BWV885
15 Sinfonias, BWV787-801
Nocturnes – in E-flat, Op.55/2 & in C-minor, Op.48/1
Mazurkas – in C, Op.24/2; in A-flat, Op.59/2; in F-minor, Op.7/3 & in B-flat minor, Op.24/4
Ballade in A-flat, Op.47
Nocturnes – in C-sharp minor, Op.27/1 & in E, Op.62/2
Polonaise-fantaisie, Op.61

Richard Goode (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 3 December, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Richard GoodePhotograph: Steve RiskindRichard Goode is a regular and always-welcome visitor to London. Here returning to Wigmore Hall, he coupled music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Fryderyk Chopin, two composers not necessarily associated at a first glance, but the latter greatly admired the former, and Chopin himself wrote rigorously, although this latter quality can sometimes be disguised through performers’ generous rubato and flexible tempos that might be more story-telling than structural.

Goode offered an organic and seasoned approach to a copious Chopin collection. He wasn’t literal with the scores but nor was he affected to make points. That said, he was on the loud side for the first of the Nocturnes if with some heart-easing drops to pianissimo later, while the second Nocturne was a more clandestine affair that rose in passion. Those Nocturnes that came subsequently were dreamy and dramatic, and – from Opus 62 – unsettling.

The fifty-plus Mazurkas are perhaps Chopin’s greatest gift to piano literature. Goode gave those chosen a light and airy outing – frisky, noble, joyous, and harmonically strange at times. The Ballade was shapely and inviting – nothing signposted – so that the emotional distress flares toward the end made much impression. The expansive Polonaise-Fantasy was imposing from the off, expressive and powerful as required; it mused and became impassioned.

The Wigmore Hall was full, standing room only, and that was occupied; but the coughing from some – barking is the better word – had to be heard to be believed: those bronchially afflicted who remained in their seats thought nothing of the pianist, the music or others in the audience.

The Bach first half included an Italian Concerto for which Goode’s watchword was clarity, and if the first movement was a little awkward (his fingers still warming to the task), and some may not have liked the ‘squashed’ grace-notes, then the Andante was of limpid beauty and the Finale was agreeably impish. The two Preludes and Fugues from Book II of The Well-tempered Clavier – that and Book I form the ‘48’ – were, to begin with, serene and perky, then severe and sublime. Each of the 15 Sinfonias is short (none longer than two pages) and they are enjoyably varied. Goode played each with distinction and in a cordial manner, as if at home with friends. The final piece – in B-minor – tilted towards being a flamboyant Sonata by Scarlatti.

As an encore, adding to the Chopin assortment, Goode offered a further Mazurka, elusive and distant, played with rapt sensitivity and ending as if unfinished … which can only mean that Richard Goode will be back soon in London, and his next appearance is keenly anticipated.

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