Six Bagatelles, Op.126
Sonata in A minor, D845
Richard Goode (piano)
Reviewed by: Diarmuid Dunne
Reviewed: 14 May, 2004
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
In a letter to his publisher, Beethoven referred to the six Bagatelles that form his opus 126, as “the most worked out, and probably the best of the type that I have yet written”. This “cycle of trifles” found Richard Goode beginning his recital in light-hearted mood and playing with a tastefully crafted approach to each miniature. His playing was appropriately lyrical, witty and measured in the, respectively, G major and minor openers, and continued with subtle variations of mood right through to the final Bagatelle in E flat, which is rounded off by a rather bizarre and brief Presto flourish.
Goode began Schubert’s A minor Sonata in impassioned mood and built a tangible sense of dramatic tension and anxiety in the opening Moderato section. Alternating between melancholy and an increasingly brooding and finally angry, almost triumphant drumming march rhythm, Goode structured the movement impeccably and drew the listener in to an uneasy private world.
There was some delightful ornamentation and wonderful technique in the Andante poco moto, and Goode’s phrasing was superb. Despite the excellent playing, the music itself does drag a little (and the mood was rather spoiled for a few minutes by an unfortunate coughing fit from an audience member – classical music does seem to be a magnet for the afflicted!). The Allegro vivace scherzo was irresistibly frivolous yet played with a degree of intensity, and the Rondo finale had great momentum, Goode’s effortless technique making the dynamics seem so natural and unforced.
Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze has rather ‘artistic’ origins, and according to the composer takes the form of a “Polterabend”, which is described as “a wedding eve when all sorts of mischievous hobgoblins and sprites torment the bride with hilarious practical jokes”. In addition the 18 pieces are variously attributed to two characters of Schumann’s invention, Florestan and Eusebius, who broadly represent his masculine and feminine sides and first appeared as characters representing divergent views of art in Schumann’s periodical “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik”. The Davidsbündlertänze was written in the period during his engagement to Clara Wieck and Schumann describes its creation as being “in the most delicious excitement that I ever remember”. All this heady artistry could strike one as being a little too much, but I’ve always felt Schumann is at his most lucid and romantic when getting … well … a bit carried away!
Davidsbündlertänze was the highlight of the evening. As the opening three pieces gave way to each other it was clear that Goode’s sense of structure was shaping a whole out of the 18 pieces. This sense of conception was compelling. Plaintive, melodic themes gave way to bold, demonstrative outbursts, and impish flights of fancy and roguish quips were all woven into a tangible whole and developed into a journey guided by an inner sense of musical and emotional logic. Goode seemed to relax and indulge himself more and more: he was nothing short of inspirational. Such charm, wit and tenderness – it really was deeply affecting.
After much applause Goode eventually relented and gave two encores, one unknown to the writer, the second a Brahms Intermezzo. Both unnecessary, but both wonderful.