It's taken a long time for Richard Goode to truly answer his calling. He made his debut in 1962, but when I first paid serious attention to him, in the early 80s, he was still a timid, studious musician, a pianist with a lot of the right moves but no clue how to communicate emotions and ideas to an audience. He was at his best as an accompanist, most notably to soprano Benita Valente and clarinetist Richard Stolzman; his submerged personality actually enhanced the soloists' artistry in repertory showpieces. By the early 90s, however, Goode finally seemed at ease in the lead role. Around that time, he started coming to Chicago regularly; once he performed the entire Beethoven sonata cycle, which he has recorded twice--the first American pianist to complete the herculean task. The performances were a revelation, each sonata conveyed not in showy athletics but in deeply felt utterances. On record, some of the spontaneity is lost; but the Goode Beethoven cycle is still one of the more convincing present-day efforts of its kind, deserving of a place alongside Schnabel's, recorded 60 years before. Goode, who's not a particularly compelling champion of contemporary works, has stuck with the Viennese classicists of late: one of his ongoing projects (for Nonesuch) is the recording of 12 of Mozart's piano concerti in collaboration with the New York-based, conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The first disc in the series--concerti nos. 18 and 20--was released last summer, and once again his spin on oft-recorded classics can compete with those by past masters. These concerti are played with an impeccable sense of proportion--of the balance between gaiety and sobriety so characteristic of Mozart. For this concert, Goode and the Orpheus will take on no. 24 and the (rarely heard) no. 9. On their own Orpheus members proffer a pair of unadventurous choices: Handel's Concerti Grossi nos. 1 and 4. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joe Meyerowitz.