Prom 62: Goode Mozart

Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453
The Rite of Spring

Richard Goode (piano)

BBC Singers (women’s voices)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Yan Pascal Tortelier

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 5 September, 2002
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Richard Goode is a pianist capable of moulding together extremes – humour and high seriousness, attention to detail and an unbroken melodic line, intellect and emotion; a very classical modernity, in fact. And without ever appearing to force his personality onto Mozart’s G major concerto, Goode made the work emerge as many-faceted, full of emotional depth and variety, and undeservedly neglected compared to the later concertos – an utter masterpiece. Goode’s is a sleight of hand of which only the greatest pianists are capable, giving music the strongest possible characterisation without apparently doing any more than playing the notes.

The initial delicacy of the orchestral textures, and the conscious communication between orchestra and soloist, set the tone for the whole. While preserving an eighteenth-century dignity and poise, Goode’s contrastsbetween relaxation and intensification gave the work a constant sense of improvised yet logical evolution.

The coolness of the slow movement made it the least successful of the three, although Goode’s intuitive understanding of the long paragraphs was exemplary. The ’Finale’ was the undoubted highlight of the whole evening.Both Goode and orchestra injected wit and high spirits into the variations, their dialogue giving a sense of drama and life that was pure opera.

The acoustic of the RAH was the enemy of the performance. A rendition this intimate, with such attention to the work’s chamber-music affinities, and Goode’s concern for a true pianissimo, must have been all but lost in the higher reaches of the hall.

Ironically, Debussy’s Nocturnes benefited greatly from the space and grandeur of the RAH. The trumpets of ’Fêtes’ and the women’s voices in ’Sirènes’, artfully placed in the Gods, literally added another dimension of atmosphere. Tortelier’s conducting was always sympathetic and lucid. One might have asked for darker ’Nuages’ (clouds), but the spring and energy of ’Fêtes’, as Apollonian as Boléro is Dionysiac, and the enchantment of Sirènes were delightful.

In The Rite of Spring, Tortelier’s final choice as the BBC Phi’s stepping-down Chief Conductor, he was again alert to the idiom and emotional purpose of the music, perfectly combining the sweetness of the folk melodies and the rhythmic energy of the dance. Again, it was in passages of reflection or mystery that one hoped for a more profound evocation of the sublime. The occasional fluff and moments of astringent tone aside, although one might have asked for a greater weight of sound, the players were musically impressive throughout.

  • BBC Radio 3 re-broadcast Thursday, 12 September, at 2 o’clock

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