Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 23:03
Photo courtesy of www.franksaloman.com
Eminent pianist Richard Goode performs at the Williams Center for the Arts.
Seated before a black Steinway, Richard Goode hunched his shoulders, rolled his head, and gently whispered at the keys below.
My, they had nice things to say back.
Goode, 69, headlined Orpheus’ fourth appearance at the Williams Center this academic year, playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor in front of a mostly packed house Sunday afternoon.
Winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher award, Goode has teamed up with Orpheus plenty of times before. The two have recorded four albums together and even landed a Grammy nomination in 1998.
The concerto, written for Schumann’s wife Clara, may not be the most demanding piece in the repertoire, although it has its share of finger-twisting moments. It demands a subtle virtuosity—chops Goode certainly had.
When Goode played, he felt like the only person in the room. Absorbed in the moment, his playing was fluid and perceptive, his touch nimble. The piano blended well with the orchestra behind it, easing into a comfortable pocket.
Goode was fun to watch, too. His physical gestures were enough to make any straight-laced piano teacher cringe. But his expressiveness was appreciated. It’s always refreshing to find a classical musician who doesn’t play like a preprogrammed automaton.
At the climax of one cadenza, he even bounced off the piano bench and got a bit of airtime.
Orpheus behind him made it all the more easy to take off. As usual, Carnegie Hall’s conductorless orchestra played well.
Celebrating its 25th year at the Williams Center, Orpheus launched the afternoon with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major, better known as the Italian Symphony.
Besides a few tuning issues at the start, the four movement work was delicate, tactful and, for the most part, lively.
Despite solid performances, the concert lacked something—variety. The program included pieces by two German composers born just one year apart. Both works were written within a decade of each other (Mendelssohn’s in 1837, Schumann’s in 1845).
Usually, Orpheus varies their program with pieces from different eras and styles—with one contemporary piece in the mix. An Aaron Copland tune was originally on the docket for the afternoon, but it was cut a few days before.
A shame it was.
The lackluster diversity transformed the Williams Center stage from a performance hall into a museum. Museums are nice and all, but they’re better when a new exhibit is thrown in with all those celebrated relics.