Richard Goode – a modern master of Mozart at work
Veteran US pianist lets in the light on the D minor Concerto, finds Peter Quantrill
Mozart Piano Concerto No 20 K466
Richard Goode (pf); LPO/Vladimir Jurowski (cond)
Royal Festival Hall, London
30 September 2017
Richard Goode has been playing Mozart for over half a century. In that time he has visited London not frequently, but enough to raise anticipation for the next visit. In his account on Saturday evening of the Piano Concerto No 20 K466 such experience told not in staleness or blurred fingerwork but rather a self-effacing freshness of response. Elaborate ornamentation, playing along with the orchestra in tuttis and other devices of Classical doctrine are not for him. There is a confident modesty about his playing that calmly accepts the spotlight in solo passages while gracefully yielding to the orchestra, and in particular the solo winds, when they become active players in the drama. Flautist Juliette Bausor was an outstanding presence among her colleagues in the London Philharmonic, both in listening to Goode and responding to him in kind.
Yet if the D minor concerto is commonly held up as the darkest, most troubled expression of pathos in the piano concertos, its kinship with Don Giovanni was much more apparent in Vladimir Jurowski’s crisp and austere direction of the opening tutti than in Goode’s solo entry. Exaggeration is anathema to him: even the projection of Beethoven’s cadenza for the opening movement brought it back within a Classical ambit, building surely towards resolution rather than careering towards anachronistic, cliff-edge suspense.
A smiling, sunny simplicity was also the keynote of the Romanze, briefly troubled but not overwhelmed by the central minor-key section. No less miraculous, each successive entry of the finale’s main theme had a subtly different character in Goode’s hands: from a defiant question to a decisive reply, with a surprisingly combative second theme. All of which made the concerto’s final turn to the major somehow right and inevitable rather than a melodramatic trick, still less a banal ‘happy ever after’.
The concert was broadcast at 1930 BST on Monday 2 October by BBC Radio 3, but it’s available for 30 days on the BBC iPlayer
Image: © Michael Wilson