Beethoven: The Complete Sonatas
It's interesting that the great Beethoven sonata cycles are seldom the ones by the big-name virtuosos. Horowitz never attempted one. Neither did Rubinstein. Ashkenazy recorded them all, but with only partial success. Richter never managed all 32 works at one time, and Gilels died before completing his cycle. The most successful complete recordings--Schnabel, Kempff, Arrau, and Backhaus--are all by pianists with a solidly intellectual mindset, however powerful their technique. Goode joins this select company, turning in performances of uncompromising integrity and musical strength. Of course, his reputation as a musician's musician precedes him: here is a player sensitive to Beethoven's every nuance, presenting the composers thoughts with exemplary clarity and taste. This is the the Beethoven cycle for the '90s. --David Hurwitz
Sa première qualité est son homogénéité : enregistrée au début des années 90, elle ne souffre d'aucune rupture d'interprétation ou de texture sonore. Le mixage favorise une prise suffisamment proche des attaques tout en laissant vivre le son par une réverbération modérée. Par rapport aux enregistrements plus anciens, le son des cordes graves est ample et riche de tous ses harmoniques - ce qui sert particulièrement le style de Beethoven.
L'interprétation fait preuve d'une constance rare. Si l'on peut reprocher quelques "défauts" (dont aucune intégrale n'est exempte), on ne pourra que saluer l'extraordinaire clarté, la poésie, l'élégance et la prestance de l'ensemble. Le secret de cette alchimie réside notamment dans l'humilité du pianiste face à la partition : Goode nous offre une vision équilibrée de l'œuvre de Beethoven, mettant en valeur ses richesses sans jamais verser dans l'exagération.
Il n'ignore pas pour autant la force démesurée de Beethoven et parvient à s'en emparer, comme le prouve son interprétation éblouissante de la Hammerklavier : alors que le long mouvement lent distille une profonde mélancolie, la fugue finale, colossal tour de force, est déployée avec précision et puissance.
On reconnaît chez Richard Goode - qui a enregistré par ailleurs les partitas de J.S. Bach Bach : Partitas n° 1, 3 et 6 (piano) , également chez Nonesuch - cette capacité remarquable de faire vivre le contrepoint le plus élaboré en détachant les lignes mélodiques enchevêtrées, en créant du relief par une maîtrise admirable des attaques et des dynamiques, notamment à la main gauche. Cette maîtrise technique exceptionnelle est profitable à l'ensemble du corpus, qui demande la plus grande vigueur comme la plus subtile intimité.
Fruit de la rencontre de talents rares d'interprétation et de réalisation technique (Max Wilcox à la production), cette intégrale a toutes les qualités pour séduire et ravir le plus grand nombre, néophytes comme collectionneurs.
I was looking through my mementos for the concert programs they used to have in St Paul's and Trinity Church down on Wall Street during lunch hours. For two days a week back in the 1970's, `80's and 90's when I was on Wall Street these sister Episcopalian churches would have noonday concerts. In fact, that's what they were called, Noonday Concerts. I remember that I had not previously heard Richard Goode play, but I had heard of him, and when Trinity Church announced that he was to play some Beethoven sonatas at the Noonday Concerts I thought I'd go hear him. Back in those days these concerts were free, and they frequently had distinguished, well-known artists . I was with my first wife when I first went to hear him. I mention this because it wasn't until years later, when I was with my present wife, that I discovered that my teacher, John Kamitsuka, was a student of Goode's.
The first time I saw RG, he came out of the left side of the Trinity Church altar at a fairly brisk pace, with a shy but friendly smile on his face, went to the piano, took a short bow, looked once around the audience, and promptly seated himself at the piano. He took some time to adjust the bench and then rubbed his hands together, looked up briefly, and then he launched into the Beethoven. More than launched, actually, he recreated the Beethoven. I didn't know it at the time, but he was in the midst of a ten year project to record all thirty-two sonatas and he was playing three or four a year in these concerts. I don't remember what he played that day or on the two or three more occasions I had over the next few years to hear him play, but I was so pleased with his performance that I tried not to miss any opportunity to hear him play.
I had bought this set some years ago and have had the occasion recently to study it. (I'm on this jag to start enjoying all the good stuff I have while I'm still kicking.) After listening to the set a few times, I felt that I had this bag of jewels and I could put my hand in and out would come this jewel or that jewel and each jewel was as beautiful as the others. In this set, there's not a bad jewel in the bunch.
So now, quoth he, what about this set? You will find that Goode has an impressive dynamic range and that the architecture of his interpretations is very cohesive: he's put a lot of thought into structure and the results are very convincing. His playing is pellucid, with hardly any blurring due to pedal. When he does blur, it's clearly for effect. He has a magnificent technique and he plays with the energetic forthrightness that is required by the music, but his playing is not strident. He prefers subtle coloring effects and precise rhythms to express the deeper dimensions of these pieces. One thing you will notice is that his hands are absolutely independent. For example, he does this trick throughout: he'll begin a crescendo, but the right hand will `crescend' sooner than the left- and the left may actually get louder and softer while the right hand continues. It makes the playing very colorful.
And now some specifics: (things that I especially like)
Sonata #2, third mvt, Scherzo
#5, third mvt, Finale (here is one place that I really get the sense of the terrific architectural coherence of his playing)
#6, third mvt, Presto: fun
#'s 10,11, 12- three gems.
#10, first mvt, Allegro
#10, third mvt, Allegro assai: perfection.
#12, fourth mvt, Allegro
#13, second mvt, Allegro molto vivace: specifically timing/rhythm
#18, first mvt, Allegro
#21, last two mvts, very contemplative interpretations, different. I think I prefer Schnabel here, especially last mvt.
#26, Das Lebwohl, Les Adieux. I think this is my favorite performance of this sonata, especially the last mvt. RG brings out all the joy that Beethoven must have felt on the return of his friend and patron.
#29, fourth mvt, Fuga. Very powerful reading. (Aside: compare the music here with the Grosse Fuge, Op 133 String quartet.)
#30, another great reading. I especially like the third mvt, variations #'s II & IV
#31 L'inversione della fuga: very powerful reading
Back in the days when I was working with Kamitsuka, I asked him who his favorite living pianists were. He said Martha Argerich was `pretty good'. That's about as high a compliment as he was willing to make for any living pianist. (He had a lot to say about bad pianists.) Then some time later RG came out with a Brahms CD. I said to Kamitsuka, `You know, John, Richard Goode just came out with a cd of Brahms late works.' He looked at me briefly and then looked away out the window that had a view of the Palisades in New Jersey and said, `Oh yeah? Hmm... it must be pretty good.'
So, hope you enjoy these as much as I have.