As Goode as it gets

Master pianist Richard Goode will let the composers do the talking when he performs here this week.

Richard Goode 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Richard Goode 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Considering the illustrious roster of classical musicians who have performed and taught here over the years it is somewhat surprising that Richard Goode’s first working visit to these shores has taken so long to materialize. The 61-year-old New Yorker pianist will give a recital at the Jerusalem Theater on March 6 and a series of master classes between March 7 and 11 at the Aldwell Center of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.
The location of the master classes is poignant. “I knew [renowned American pianist and teacher] Ed Aldwell,” says Goode in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, “he was a friend and a colleague and I am delighted to come to Israel to teach at an institution connected with him. I heard him play many times, especially Bach. He was one of the most convincing performers of Bach’s works.”
Goode isn’t exactly a slouch in that department either. His praises have been sung across the globe by critics, audiences and fellow musicians alike. He won a Grammy award for Best Chamber Music Performance his recording of the Brahms sonatas with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. He was nominated for another Grammy for his recording of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, in the process becoming the first American-born pianist to record the full cycle of 32 sonatas written between 1795 and 1822.
For Goode it was a challenging and highly rewarding experience. “There was a lot of discovery in the work. I hadn’t played all the sonatas in public before, so that was difficult, but I realized how great his sonatas were, from the earliest to the latest. Some of the sonatas get played hugely, but Beethoven was a great master from the beginning.”
Goode also feels that immersing oneself in the works of a single composer offers another advantage over a more eclectic approach, namely that “Playing a lot of music by one composer means that you get to speak his language, you become proficient in all the idiomatic aspects of the material.”
THE MANY kudos that have come Goode’s way over the years include observations about his ability to get under a composer’s skin and come to grips with the writer’s mindset. “We all try to do that, whether we succeed is another matter,” he says modestly. Numerous critics would suggest that Goode does succeed, with aplomb. “People hear my music in their own way,” Goode continues. “It’s a bit like hearing your own speaking voice on a tape. You always sound different from the outside.”
Presumably, performing the works of different composers can bring out different facets of the musician’s own personality, too. “I’d say that’s true and it also requires you to change physically in some ways. Chopin, for instance, was the ultimate piano composer, but Mozart’s piano playing was all about grace. Then again Schumann, as we know, didn’t end up as a pianist after he injured his finger. His music is sometimes quite awkward and not graceful, which are appealing aspects of his music. When you play his music you feel, in a way, that it is inwardly knotted up music. It changes you inside. It’s like being a character actor.”
Then again, the ordeals the composer went through to get through his writing do not necessarily make the performance side more difficult. “Beethoven was a strenuous composer, but that doesn’t make playing his music harder. It takes a certain kind of approach, by the player, to be completely at ease with the demands of the work you are interpreting.”
While some consider classical music to be “too serious” or “too cerebral,” more than anything Goode endeavors and, it must be said, succeeds, to convey the energies and passions of the works he plays and the composers who wrote them. “[Legendary dancer and choreographer] Martha Graham said, ‘Don’t reach out to your audience. Light a fire you can see a hundred miles away.’ I think that’s a good way to approach classical music. I try to do that.”
Richard Goode will perform works by Byrd, Bach, Chopin and Schumann at the Jerusalem Theater on Saturday, March 6 at 8:30 p.m. For more information about the concert and the master classes: