MOZART Piano Sonatas Nos 8 & 15, etc – Goode
There’s nothing more demanding of mind and finger, heart and hand, than a Mozart programme such as this, which includes two of the greatest sonatas and the A minor Rondo. Absolutely no margin for error or insufficiency, nor indeed for anything at all approximate or generalised. It’s given to very few to play Mozart as well as Richard Goode, who seems to me to pitch the rhetoric just right and sustain an ideal balance of strength and refinement. Pitching rhetoric so that one is constantly persuaded isn’t a question of getting it in the right ball-park but of defining character with absolute precision and making eloquence speak as well as sing. With Goode, the music couldn’t be any other way, not at this moment. The smallest units have been thought about, judged in relation to before-and-after and the long term, and then released into the air, beyond the confines of the instrument.
It’s quite big playing and I like that, too, the range of sonority appropriate to the A minor Sonata, K310, in particular; and I can’t recall a recent recording of it which realises so well the sharp contrasts, the cross-cut abutments of dynamics, which are such a striking feature in all three movements. One of Goode’s characteristics is a touch of urgency that has nothing to do with impetuosity or agitation of the surface but rather with a projection of the discourse in the sense of carrying it forward and making us curious about what will happen next. And in the presto finale, where Brendel is choppy and rather slow, Goode is exciting as well as articulate and wonderfully adept at getting from one thing to another.
There’s little to choose between these players in the composite F major Sonata, K533/494. Brendel is at his finest in the dark, far-reaching middle movement; both of them relish the challenge of characterising the multifariousness of the first, with Brendel’s pianism at the service of the drama but perhaps the plainer of the two in dealing with the intricacies of the counterpoint. Goode is especially convincing in the last movement, Mozart’s revision of an earlier piece sometimes considered too lightweight to function as a finale; I don’t think you would have a doubt about it here.
He gives you the overview, too, often powerfully. While admiring the flux of intensities, dynamics, shapes and colours he sets before you in the Rondo, I wondered three-quarters of the way through whether the totality was going to achieve enough weight. But the coda is to come – passionate and desolate, a close without parallel in Mozart’s instrumental music – and at moments such as this you can be assured that Goode will surprise and certainly not disappoint. The shorter pieces, enterprisingly chosen, set off the great works admirably. Exceptional sound throughout – like the playing, quite out of the ordinary run.