About a half-hour after master American pianist Richard Goode completes a telephone interview to talk about his upcoming recital at Meany Hall for the Performing Arts, he calls back.
Goode seems to feel he didn’t offer enough reflection on the music he has chosen to perform Thursday, March 20, as part of the University of Washington’s President’s Piano and International Chamber Music Series.
Most virtuoso players would simply have moved on after hanging up. But Goode, 70, sounds as if he’s just as interested in exploring various nuances connecting and separating the composers in his Romantic-era program as communicating those thoughts to an interested party.
What a program it is: Schumann’s 1837 “Davidsbündlertänze” (18 dances/dialogues about then-contemporary music, partly inspired by Schumann’s future wife Clara); Janácek’s piano cycle “On an Overgrown Path” (which premiered in 1905 but took many years to complete); and Debussy’s 1910 Préludes, Book I.
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“I love all the pieces,” Goode says. “It’s a kaleidoscopic program. The Debussy is very vivid. The Schumann is a work of fantastic contrasts put together in a way there’s an inner unity to everything.
“Schumann was very influenced by literature and wanted to be a novelist. He was always trying to capture internal feelings. Debussy, by contrast, has a certain kind of objective caste. He was extraordinarily visual. So many of the Préludes are inspired by ‘models’: landscapes, dreams, nature, literary characters. There are all kinds of worlds he gets inspiration from.
“As a pianist, I sometimes feel that I’m close to painting Debussy’s music. The piano becomes a kind of palette. Yet he occasionally strikes me as Schumannesque in his moods and in a certain tenderness. I’ve been playing the Préludes a long time and find them more and more enchanting and beautiful.”
Goode has also done his share of performing “On an Overgrown Path” during a long career.
“Janácek is also close to Schumann in capturing internal feeling, and the strength of his emotion is very powerful,” says Goode. “He was tremendously interested in the spoken word and the rhythm of his native language, Czech. He would go around overhearing speech and writing it down in musical notation, which comes through in the angularity and peculiarity of his music. You hear a characteristic irregular rhythm.”
Recently returned from several recitals in Paris, Goode’s busy season includes concertos with major orchestras and a bit of chamber music.
Born in East Bronx, Goode continues to live in New York, where he is on faculty for The New School’s music conservatory, Mannes College. He was a student there as well as the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, winning the first of his various international awards in 1961.
Goode took the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize in 1980 and was also the first American pianist to record the complete Beethoven piano sonatas. He began a long relationship with the Marlboro Music School and Festival in Vermont — a retreat for advanced musicianship — in the 1950s, becoming co-director in the mid-1990s. (He retired from the position last summer.)
Does Goode still find something to learn by performing works he has played many times?
“I find some of them inexhaustible,” he says. “I’m playing pieces I’ve known for a long time, and I feel I get deeper and deeper into what they’re about. You try to get to the center of it, whatever that center is. It’s an emotional experience.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org