We invite you to the Venetian Theater for a piano recital by the incomparable Richard Goode, hailed as one of the “finest pianists in the world” (The Washington Post). Goode, known in particular for his interpretations of Beethoven, will offer one of the composer’s late masterpieces, the Sonata Op. 101, together with Debussy’s enchanting Preludes, and Schumann’s Papillons. The program begins with Baroque master J.S. Bach.
Richard Goode, piano
J.S. Bach: Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101
Schumann: Papillons, Op. 2
Debussy: Five Préludes
Richard Goode, piano
Richard Goode has been hailed for music-making of tremendous emotional power, depth and expressiveness, and has been acknowledged worldwide as one of today’s leading interpreters of Classical and Romantic music. In regular performances with the major orchestras, recitals in the world’s music capitals, and through his extensive and acclaimed Nonesuch recordings, he has won a large and devoted following.
Gramophone magazine recently captured the essence of what makes Richard Goode such an original and compelling artist: ‘‘Every time we hear him, he impresses us as better than we remembered, surprising us, surpassing our expectations and communicating perceptions that stay in the mind.”
One of today’s most revered recitalists, Richard Goode is a favorite of audiences in Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Houston, Portland, and Chicago and numerous colleges and universities around the country. In Europe, appearances at Wigmore Hall, the Edinburgh Festival, Berlin, and throughout Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the UK are always highlights. His masterclasses, in person or online, continue to be hailed as truly memorable events.
In recent seasons, Goode appeared as soloist with Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in a program filmed as part of a documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the country’s most popular summer musical events. He also toured in the U.S. with one of the world’s most admired orchestras and his recording partner, the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer. Their recording of the five Beethoven Piano Concertos has won worldwide acclaim; Goode performed Concertos No. 2 and No. 4 on the tour, which included performances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Lincoln Center, and for the Chicago Symphony, the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, and Celebrity Series of Boston. Other orchestral appearances include the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and in Europe with the London Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, and BBC Philharmonic.
Among other highlights of recent seasons have been the recitals in which, for the first time in his career, Goode performed the last three Beethoven Sonatas in one program, drawing capacity audiences and raves in such cities as New York, London, and Berlin. The New York Times, in reviewing his Carnegie Hall performance, hailed his interpretations as “majestic, profound readings… Mr. Goode’s playing throughout was organic and inspired, the noble, introspective themes unfolding with a simplicity that rendered them all the more moving.” He was also heard as soloist with Andris Nelsons in his first season as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and at Carnegie Hall, where Goode was featured in two chamber music concerts with young artists from the Marlboro Music Festival, in a master class on Debussy and in a Main Hall recital. To mark the 25th anniversary in 2018-19 of the release of his historic recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas, Nonesuch Records re-released the acclaimed recordings.
An exclusive Nonesuch recording artist, Goode has made more than two dozen recordings over the years, ranging from solo and chamber works to lieder and concertos. His recording of the five Beethoven concertos with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer was released in 2009 to exceptional critical acclaim, described as “a landmark recording” by the Financial Times and nominated for a Grammy award. His 10-CD set of the complete Beethoven sonatas cycle, the first-ever by an American-born pianist, was nominated for a Grammy and has been ranked among the most distinguished recordings of this repertoire. Other recording highlights include a series of Bach Partitas, a duo recording with Dawn Upshaw, and Mozart piano concertos with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
A native of New York, Goode studied with Elvira Szigeti and Claude Frank, with Nadia Reisenberg at the Mannes College of Music, and with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute. His numerous prizes over the years include the Young Concert Artists Award, First Prize in the Clara Haskil Competition, the Avery Fisher Prize, and a Grammy award for his recording of the Brahms Sonatas with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. His first public performances of the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas at Kansas City’s Folly Theater and New York’s 92Y in 1987-88 brought him to international attention being hailed by The New York Times as “among the season’s most important and memorable events.” It was later performed with great success at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1994 and 1995.
Goode served, together with Mitsuko Uchida, as co-Artistic Director of the Marlboro Music School and Festival in Marlboro, Vermont from 1999 through 2013. Participating initially at the age of 14, at what the New Yorker magazine recently described as “the classical world’s most coveted retreat,” he has made a notable contribution to this unique community over the 28 summers he has spent there. He is married to the violinist Marcia Weinfeld, and, when the Goodes are not on tour, they and their collection of some 5,000 volumes live in New York City.
At a Glance
Notwithstanding their technical difficulty, Bach’s six keyboard Partitas, or suites, were an immediate commercial as well as artistic success. According to his first biographer, “This work made in its time a great noise in the musical world. Such excellent compositions for the clavier had never been seen and heard before.” Although Beethoven was born a mere 20 years after Bach’s death, his deeply unconventional Sonata in A Major belongs to a different world. Many of the work’s features — from the tonal and metrical ambiguity of the first movement, which Wagner considered a prime specimen of “endless melody,” to the profusion of canonic and fugal writing — anticipate the dense, knotty idiom of Beethoven’s late period.
A similar stylistic and generational shift is evident in the programmatic works by Schumann and Debussy on tonight’s program. Both composers frequently drew inspiration from extramusical sources. But whereas Schumann’s sources were primarily literary — in the case of Papillons, a novel by the German Romantic author Jean Paul — Debussy responded to a wide range of stimuli from art, architecture, and nature. The miniature tone poems that comprise his two sets of Préludes illustrate his revolutionary approach to the keyboard; some of the pieces are so texturally luxuriant that Debussy notated the music on three staves.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828
About the Composer
Bach showed a serious and sustained interest in the suite throughout his life. It was characteristic of his methodical approach to composition that he used the form both as an organizational device and as a pedagogical tool. This systematic mindset is most clearly shown in his four-part Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice). The first volume, which Bach self-published in 1731 as his opus 1, consisted of six Partitas – sometimes called German Suites – for single manual harpsichord. In the Baroque era, the word partita commonly referred to a suite of stylized instrumental dances, typically including a stately allemande, a vivacious courante, a broadly lyrical sarabande, and a bouncy gigue, often supplemented by movements of a less dance-like character.
About the Work
Among Bach’s greatest works in suite form, the Partitas were an instant commercial as well as artistic success. His early biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel described them as “brilliant, well-sounding, expressive, and always new.” The virtuosic character of the music was not lost on Bach’s contemporaries: the composer and critic Johann Mattheson cautioned that “anyone who ventured to read them off at sight would be undertaking something very foolhardy, thinking that with his juggler’s tricks he could impose on his listeners’ credulity.” Nevertheless, Bach disarmingly advertised the Partitas on the title page as “galanteries, composed for music lovers, to refresh their spirits.”
A Deeper Listen
Clocking in at nearly half an hour, the D-Major Partita is a substantial work by any measure. Of the seven movements, only the Aria and Menuet stand out for their economy and lightness of touch, helping leaven what is otherwise a fairly dense, though by no means indigestible, loaf. BWV 828 begins with a traditional French overture, characterized by a slow, spacious prelude followed by a more animated section — in this case, a zestful fugue. Bach follows this lengthy introduction with a similarly weighty Allemande, whose rhapsodic languor is accentuated by searching harmonies and supple rhythmic patterns. The Courante’s snappy arpeggiated figures contrast with the skipping syncopated theme of the Aria, while the sun-kissed melodic garlands of the Sarabande recall those of the Allemande. In the concluding Gigue, the pearly, meandering triplets of the Menuet are transformed into a raging torrent.
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101
About the Composer
Beethoven the pianist, no less than the composer, was a force of nature who seemed incapable of abiding by the rules of polite society. His unbridled energy at the keyboard and his formidable powers as an improviser are the stuff of legend. Like most of his contemporaries, Beethoven was weaned partly on a diet of Bach. When, at age 11, he received his first favorable review, it was for a performance of the Well-Tempered Clavier in his native Bonn. After moving to Vienna, he took lessons in counterpoint from the eminent teacher Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. Decades later, those early studies bore fruit in the intricate canons and fugues of such works as the A-Major Sonata.
About the Work
Beethoven composed his 28th piano sonata in the summer of 1816. Like other works of the time — including his last two cello sonatas, Op. 102, and the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte — it signaled a transition from the “heroic” style of his so-called middle period to the more introspective language of his later years. In what seems to have been a burst of patriotic feeling, Beethoven designated both Op. 101 and its sequel, the Sonata in B-flat Major of 1817, for the “Hammerklavier,” the German word for pianoforte. The A-Major Sonata is dedicated to his pupil Dorothea von Ertmann, whose formidable technique was undoubtedly put to the test by the work, which Beethoven himself characterized as “difficult to execute.”
A Deeper Listen
The German markings that Beethoven attached to the score — mit der innigsten Empfindung (with deepest feeling), sehnsuchstvoll (yearningly), mit Entschlossenheit (with determination) — reflect the music’s wide range of affect and expression. The Op. 101 Sonata is markedly unconventional from the start, with the A-major tonality not firmly established in the listener’s ear until the first movement is well under way. The placidly flowing 6/8 pulse is repeatedly interrupted by metrical displacements that convey a sense of free-floating timelessness. All traces of metrical ambiguity are erased in the second movement, a jaunty march in F major with a teasingly canonic middle section. The short but hauntingly intense thirdmovement Adagio is marked to be played una corda, with the damper pedal gradually released to create a fuller sound – an effect more easily realized on pianos of Beethoven’s day than on modern concert grands. A fleeting reminiscence of the first-movement theme leads to a fugal finale of transcendent drama and complexity.
Papillons, Op. 2
About the Composer
Schumann embodied the spirit of the Romantic Era in his affinity for small-scale musical forms and lyrical utterances, his reliance on literary and other extramusical sources of inspiration, and the supreme value he placed on emotional freedom and spontaneity. Although he wrote four symphonies, several concertos, and even a single opera, his impulsive genius found its most characteristic expression in piano music and art songs. Schumann was an inveterate improviser at the keyboard, as one might suppose from the rhapsodic fluidity that characterizes his piano writing. When a chronic hand injury prevented him from realizing his youthful ambition to be a concert pianist, he dedicated himself to creating a new kind of music for the instrument, compounded of heroic virtuosity and poetic intimacy.
About the Work
Schumann wrote much of his greatest keyboard music in the decade leading up to his marriage to the pianist Clara Wieck in 1840. Papillons (Butterflies) gradually emerged from its chrysalis between 1829 and 1831, while he was still a student in Heidelberg vaguely contemplating a legal career. The inspiration for the work — only the second that Schumann deemed worthy of an opus number – was a novel by his favorite writer, Jean Paul, about twin brothers who fall in love with the same woman. To test Wina’s affections, Walt and Vult attend a masked ball disguised as each other — a harbinger of the more elaborate musical masquerade that Schumann would depict in Carnaval a few years later. The composer made no secret of his programmatic scheme, telling his mother that Papillons was “meant to transform this masked ball into notes” and annotating his copy of Paul’s novel with references to the score.
A Deeper Listen
Papillons is a suite of dances framed by a brief Introduction and a more substantial Finale. Just as butterfly imagery suffuses its literary progenitor, so Schumann’s music flits airily from one emotional perch to another, seldom alighting long enough to leave a lasting impression.
In a letter to a contemporary music critic, the composer captured the work’s capricious character and breathlessly episodic structure: “Walt—Vult—masks—Wina—Vult’s dancing—the exchange of masks—confessions—anger—revelation—the hurrying away—the closing dream and then the departing brother.” The twins’ contrasting personalities foreshadow the fictitious alter egos that Schumann invented for himself – the stormy, impulsive Florestan and the dreamy, ruminative Eusebius. All but one of the 12 short movements is in triple meter, accentuating the giddy, waltzlike atmosphere. The billowing strains of the opening dance return in the Finale, only to dissolve in a dream.
About the Composer
As much as Debussy relished being a thorn in the side of France’s hidebound musical establishment, there was a strong streak of traditionalism in his artistic temperament. The composer who in later years proudly signed himself “musicien français” advocated for a revival of the “pure French tradition” as exemplified by the Baroque master Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Debussy made his mark in the early 1890s with a series of boldly unconventional yet quintessentially gallic works, including the String Quartet, La damoiselle élue, and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The term impressionist eventually became attached to him through his association in the popular mind with painters like Manet. Debussy, however, categorically rejected the label, maintaining that his music depicted not superficial impressions but underlying “realities.”
About the Work
It was partly to counteract the impressionist moniker that Debussy called his later piano works “preludes” and “etudes,” eschewing titles like Estampes and Images that evoked the visual arts. In a further effort to discourage such associations, he insisted on relegating programmatic titles to the end of the pieces – to no discernible effect, as the public remained stubbornly wedded to them. In any case, his two books of Préludes are programmatic only in the most general sense of arising in response to extramusical stimuli, and those stimuli were as likely to be literary or even theatrical as visual. The composer Alfredo Casella wrote that, as a pianist, Debussy’s “sensibility of touch was incomparable; he made the impression of playing directly on the strings of the instrument with no intermediate mechanism; the effect was a miracle of poetry.”
A Deeper Listen
Debussy’s sound world, as illustrated by the five Préludes on tonight’s program, is an enchanted fantasyland of shimmering harmonies, sinuous roulades, and richly embroidered melodies. Brouillards (Mists) encapsulates the essence of his pianism, with its rippling arpeggios, bell-like octaves, and luminous overlay of tonal and chromatic harmonies. Debussy’s interest in exoticism is reflected in the sultry habanera pulse of La puerta del vino (the title refers to the Moorish Wine Gate in Granada’s Alhambra palace), while Ondine (a water nymph) is notable for its swirling, harplike figurations and resonances. Nature imagery comes to the fore in the trudging ostinato rhythm of Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the Snow), and Richard Goode’s selection ends on a whimsical note with the skittishly playful Danse de Puck (Puck’s Dance).
— Harry Haskell
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