We heard, during intermission, that some had wondered if lighting up the stage at the unusual Shalin Liu Performance Center of Rockport Music would be possible. The response came not from the performance center’s MC but from the artist himself. Richard Goode did not want the lights on himself, believing that “it is more important to hear the pianist than to see him.”
Unassuming and with no shortage of gentility begins somewhat to describe this most remarkable pianist, whose tonal colors cover the full spectrum yet are imbued more often than not with warm, vibrant earth tones. Every once in a while in the Robert Schumann pieces he played could be heard in astonishing puddles of sound emanating from the middle low register of the keyboard. They spoke mounds.
The abundant melodies in Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op. 15 and Kreisleriana, Op. 16 and Chopin’s music all talked more than they sang. Wetness and mushiness were totally absent; a little legato lessened all of that, a certain dryness prevailing — and that coming with articulation uncommon for performances of the music of these two beloved Romantics, composers of the some of the greatest piano music ever written. This last thought comes to mind only because I just could not stop thinking throughout the afternoon’s concert about how there are so many meaningful notes to play, to hear, to grasp that Goode had me leaning on every single one of those thousands if not millions of little dots designating this or that key on the piano. Not a single note gets any less attention than any other in Richard Goode’s scheme of things. But trying to get closer to the real thing, it must be said that this kind of attention that he gives the music separates him from so very many others who play Schumann and Chopin and are exceptional themselves.
This experience on Sunday afternoon, October 2, seemed somewhat like a dream. Here I was, looking out that big, completely windowed wall behind Goode and seeing a seascape out of Debussy’s La Mer, when, like an illusionist, Goode turned my gaze totally upon his musical conjuring of some of the most subtle dialogues I’d never heard before. As I said, he’s a talker at the keyboard and tells stories that keep you hanging on every word, or note, as it were. Personages of all sorts emerged in Schumann’s dialectical Florestan-Eusebius compositional world. Scenes shifted, as they do in the best movies, you are here and before you know you are there. I do not believe there was a single moment during the entire program that I did not understand what this or that note or move meant or why it belonged as it did.
I did observe quite often in the clearest of ways how Goode drew interior voices into dramatic discourse. “Rolling” was a word that kept recurring; that is how the notes he played sounded coming off his fingertips. For his Chopin — Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 55, No. 2 (1843), Scherzo No. 3 in c-sharp minor, Op. 39 (1839), Waltz in A-flat, Op. 64, No. 3 Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2, Waltz in F Major, Op. 34, No. 3 and Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, Op. 47 (1840-1) — emotion of a very different sort sprang from this artist’s complete sense of piano being an adventure in colored articulation. Moods seem not to be high on his endgame. I heard dance moves and gestures through his marvelous left hand and right hand rubato playing, wondering if, in fact, each of his hands were in a pas-de-deux this time in sync, the next time not, and a third kind — a polyphony of rubatos, if you will.
Two encores, one of Chopin and one of Bach brought this ever-so-artful and personal outing to a close. Richard Goode’s foray into the infinitesimal in articulation, spectrum of color, and the millisecond in time adds up to an incomparable art of pianism.
David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University. www.notescape.net.