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Listening to Richard Goode playing all the Bach keyboard partitas on
Nonesuch. Just bought the CDs. My overall impression is favorable.
I heard Goode live at Ravinia in the Martin Theater in July. He played
two Haydn sonatas, one Mozart rondo, Beethoven Sonata 28, "In the Mists"
by Janácek, and an assortment of Debussy Preludes. The encore was a
Chopin Nocturne. I had never heard the Janácek before. It was lovely.
I was taken with his Haydn. To my knowledge he has never recorded any
Haydn sonatas. Listening to him made me wish he had. He managed to find
their beauty - to make them almost senusal - while retaining the wit. Now
I am even more disappointed with the last Haydn set I bought, Marc-André
Hamlin on Hyperion. Hamlin is brilliant, but there's a plainness about
his approach that is ill-suited to these sonatas, I think.
Goode has never recorded the Janácek or the Debussy, either. I have his
recording of the Beethoven. This performance of No. 28 was good, though I
detected some insecurity at one juncture.
I'm going to hear Goode again tonight at a small concert hall I've never
been to before - the Galvin Recital Hall at the new Beinen School of Music
at Northwestern University. It's new to me, anyway. The building wasn't
there last time I was on campus. I'm looking forward to experiencing the
hall as much as the performance.
A photo inside Galvin Recital Hall, with windows behind the stage looking
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I hope to arrive before it's dark so I can catch the view.
It was dark by the time I arrived, and in any case, there was a phalanx
of eager young ushers preventing anyone from entering the auditorium
early. Once inside, while the house lights were still up, what I saw
was the reflection of the audience. From the first row of the balcony,
I waved and saw myself waving back. After the lights went down, the
remaining reflections were the stage and the piano, and the Chicago
skyline becomes visible.
Also visible are the headlights of distant cars. Occasionally one will
turn, the light hits just the right angle and momentarily appears
brighter. It's like being in line with a rotating lighthouse lens.
There is a partially-lit bike path that runs along the lakeshore, too,
and all through the concert you could see cyclists, joggers, and
pedestrians going by. It was a little distracting. To amuse yourself,
you can try to predict in how many seconds a given cyclist will overtake
given jogger. At one point someone walked across the grass and shone a
flashlight into the auditorium.
The acoustics were well-balanced and robustly projected, though there
was a certain register in the treble that sounded a little steely to me.
It was unclear to me whether this was the hall or the piano. I don't
think glass is a very good material for concert halls, acoustically
speaking, but I assume the acoustical firm that designed the hall took
it into account. I came across a review in the Tribune of a concert
here by Stephen Hough a few years ago, and the critic, Alan Artner,
remarked that the room made it impossible to produce a true pianissimo
and that the fortissimos were too loud. In retrospect, I can see what
Artner meant about the pianissimos, but the fortissimos weren't that
bothersome from where I was sitting. I wonder to what extent this is
simply a function of the size of the hall - the smaller the space, the
louder the piano is going to be. Galvin seats 400.
I was most taken with parts of the Partita and the Chopin Mazurkas. The
latter surprised me, because the one recording I have of Goode playing a
few mazurkas didn't impress me. Here, however, they came alive in
rhythm and in Chopin's brand of counterpoint, and they were substantial.
My concert-going companion favored Janacek's "In the Mists." I
preferred Goode's account of this earlier in the year, but I think it
may have been the different hall that made me prefer it.
Before the concert began, Goode announced a change from the printed
program: he would begin with just the Sarabande from the D Major Partita
(No. 4) before launching into the whole of No. 5. One person behind me
grumbled upon hearing this. I'm not sure the grumble was justified - it
was a bonus, not a replacement nor an omission. There was one encore:
No. 3 of Schubert's Moments Musicaux, I believe.
On Goode's tour schedule I saw mention of a scheduled masterclass the
next day in the same hall. Nowhere on Northwestern's website was this
listed, but I took a chance and showed up, somewhat late. Few were
observing - only faculty and other students as far as I could tell. I
don't know if it was officially open to the public, but no one kicked me
The page turner from the night before, a woman with long hair and
spectacles, was in the audience for the master class. She was also
Goode's page turner earlier this summer. I suspect that her relation to
him is more than just page turner - perhaps his wife, violinist Marcia
Weinfeld. She sat in the fourth row, farther up than anyone else. The
noonday sun worked its way 'round the sky and shone through the glass
wall behind the stage, hitting her right in the eyes. She held up a
sheet of paper as a visor, but it wasn't very effective. Translucent
screens had been lowered over the glass, but there were gaps between the
sections from which the sun peeked through. Finally she had had enough
and moved several seats to the left. Within the hour the sun had
shifted and again hit her the in the eyes. I wonder if the architect
considered the wall's orientation to the sun when designing the hall.
During the day joggers and cyclists are still visible through the
screen, and seagulls drift by, but somehow it is all less distracting
than at night.
I missed the first performance and part of the second. The second
student was working on the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata
No. 18. Goode frequently demonstrated his points on another piano. He
mentioned that there is more than one first edition of this piece and
that they don't entirely agree. The third student played the first
several movements of Bach's Keyboard Partita No. 5, the same piece Goode
had played in performance the night before. Of one movement, he said to
the student, "I liked some of what you did better than what I did last
night." This elicited a chuckle from a faculty member.
Although he allowed that there are many approaches to Bach that let the
music come through, he advocated bringing out certain voices or lending
emphasis with varying articulation. "We need some help," he said of the
listeners of Bach. As an exercise in the Sarabande, he had the student
play the left hand while he played the right. Not too slow, he said,
and imagine you're playing a cello.
At first there was some confusion over the final student's piece -
Haydn's A-flat piano sonata. There are two A-flat sonatas; student and
master each had the other sonata in mind. The one in question was No.
46 (Hob. XVI). "Haydn was master of the non sequitur and the unexpected
turn," said Haydn. He asked the student if she had written out her own
dynamic markings for the sonata. She hadn't; he suggested that she do
it as an exercise. Bartok did it for several Haydn sonatas, he said:
"It's interesting to see coming from the mind of a composer."
At the end, one faculty member turned to another and said of Goode, "He
lives up to his reputation." This must have been the first time they
had seen him give a masterclass. I did see him give one once before,
probably twenty years ago, in Lutkin Hall on the same campus. One of
his comments I recall from that class was about dynamics in Beethoven
sonatas. Goode said he viewed a piano marking in Beethoven as different
than some other composers - not as soft, but more like a normal speaking
It was nice at the end of the class to step out of the building, into
the sun, and catch the smell of the lake, then walk for half a mile or
so along the shore. Imagine: I must have been visible from the concert
hall. In that hall, in a manner of speaking, all the world's a stage.