In the years since he trimmed his schedule by giving up his position as co-Artistic Director of the Marlboro Music School and Festival, Richard Goode has focused even more than before on recitals. With his wife, violinist Marcia Weinfeld, acting as page-turner, he seems to devote himself each time to deciphering the hidden ur-meaning in the scores, bringing new insights to works that have been at the core of his repertory for a long time.

Richard Goode at Caramoor
© Gabe Palacio

The physical and spiritual centre of his latest recital, part of the Caramoor Summer Festival, was Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 28 in A major, Op.101, the first of the late-period sonatas that he many times affirmed to be his favourite among the 32. On Friday night, the sonata’s overall journey from doubt (as expressed by the beautifully shaped “questions” in the very first bars) to certainty and confidence was especially well-defined. There was no hint of theatricality in Goode’s rendition; instead, he quietly explored every musical idea, every nuance, always keeping in mind the composition’s progression from darkness to light. The sense of yearning in the brief Langsam und sehnsuchtvoll interlude was extraordinarily rendered. Cesurae – such as those between the initial questions – highlighted the music’s atmospheric vibrancy. The complex relation between the dotted rhythms and the two voices, continuously engaging each other in the gruff, martial second movement, was portrayed with outmost clarity. At the same time, in Goode’s performance, Beethoven’s sonata appeared equidistant from the music of Bach (the gradual increase of contrapuntal complexity, building up during the entire sonata and culminating in the Finale) and Schumann (the introspective world full of harmonic and rhythmic tensions, at turns intimate, wistful, assertive) that preceded and followed it in the programme.

Goode approached Bach’s Partita no. 4 in D major, BWV828 with great honesty, marrying a search for adequate colours with an urge to display the inner structures for each of the dances. He moved with ease from evoking orchestral sonorities (Overture, Courante or Gigue) to more intimate ones (Allemande, Aria or Sarabande). His rendition of the long melodic lines of the Allemande was remarkable, emphasising Bach’s adoption of harmony to alleviate the “dryness” of the imitative counterpoint. He underlined the rhythmic invention of the Courante or the Menuet (combining double and triple rhythms). The Gigue was full of vigour, but as with anything Goode touches, it was never overstated.

Richard Goode at Caramoor
© Gabe Palacio

Schumann’s Papillons is also a set of dances, apparently simple and direct, nonetheless already prefiguring later arguments between Florestan and Eusebius, between enthusiastic and dreamy. Goode underlined the score’s kaleidoscopic changes of mood, but also tried to keep alive a sense of narrative, linking the vignettes to their literary source, the masked ball scene from Jean Paul’s novel, Flegeljahre.

The pianist ended his recital with a selection of five pieces from both books of Debussy’s Préludes, underlining their atmospheric quality and harmonic audacity. Smiling and occasionally humming, the pianist brought out a full range of colours and moods: the confusing, grey landscape of Brouillards; the warm, earthy tones used to paint Puerta del Vino, the Moorish gate in Alhambra; the eerie world of Ondine; the Monet-like scenery in Des Pas sur la neige (with its sense of regret a possible echo of the earlier Beethoven Adagio); the odd dialogue between Puck’s impish somersaults and Oberon’s “trumpet” calls to order in La Danse de Puck. Goode added a sixth – Les Collines d’Anacapri as an encore, playing it with the same delicate balance between control and abandon, but always relying on the first.

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