Richard Goode is a splendid, flamboyant pianist. Last night he opened the Beethoven Piano Series at the Terrace Theater, and if the next several Thursdays prove as exciting as Goode's concert, it should be a fine musical autumn.
His presence and style could be called acrobatic: head bobbing, hair flying, and mouth mouthing the phrases -- often humming a la Glenn Gould. He could be flippant, as in the opening of the Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, only to surprise the audience with formidable power and precision. In the Sonata No. 9 in E major there was a carefree flavor in the first allegro, with a subtle ritard in the reprise of the main theme and expansive tempos cleverly foiling the rushed ebb and flow of the final rondo.
The Sonata No. 18 in E-flat major also revealed unexpected grace in the minuet, all the more welcome after Goode's refreshingly raw handling of the insistent left-hand rhythms of the preceding scherzo. If his pedaling could at times be careless and his playing of pianissimi passages was often a tad loud, these are mere quibbles. The crowd's excitement grew with each piece.
It was to the more mature Beethoven that the pianist found the greatest affinity. The Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major found the composer's genius struggling with form, and in Goode's hands one could hear its contradictions in all their glory. The melodies of the moderato cantabile had the self-conscious beauty of a late Goethe tale, the biting wisdom of a Pushkin poem. And as discrete notes fell deliberately to begin the final fugue, the inevitability of its thunderous chords was presaged and then realized with uncontainable joy.