Richard Goode is one of the finest pianists in the world. Few can match his unfailingly beautiful tone, effortless technical command, interpretive insight and total emotional commitment to the music he plays. Yet when he performed at the Landon School on Sunday afternoon, his audience filled about two-thirds of the medium-size Mondzac Performing Arts Center, and a few people snored loudly during most of the concert.
That's a shame. But Goode's performances can't have lulled anyone to sleep. The polyphony of Bach's Partita No. 6 in E Minor, BWV 830, came from his fingertips like water from a spring: clear, crisp, irrepressible and refreshing. Arnold Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19, demand far different virtues, but Goode drew intriguing connections between Schoenberg's scattered dots of sound.
Late Beethoven has been one of Goode's specialties, and he took a direct approach to the Sonata No. 30 in E, Op. 109. Goode took melodies at natural, flowing tempos, with the great theme of the variations finale both noble and intimate, and kept the textures clear.
Book I of Debussy's Preludes, 12 impressionistic sketches in all shades of pianistic color, drew performances of tremendous concentration and spirit; Goode pointed the rhythms of Debussy's evocations of the dance lightly but decisively, and his attention to the smallest details of sound made vivid the soft tread of "Des pas sur la neige" ("Steps on snow") and the mysterious grandeur of "La cathedrale engloutie" ("The submerged cathedral").
-- Andrew Lindemann Malone
Play a baroque concerto for four violins on modern instruments and you'll hear subtle differences in the timbres of the soloists. Play the same concerto on period violins and it sounds as if four entirely different kinds of string instruments are being sounded.
At least that was the effect Sunday when the English Concert, under the direction of Andrew Manze, performed Locatelli's Concerto in F, Op. 4, No. 12, at the Clarice Smith Center. Playing a mix of idiosyncratic violins, Manze, Walter Reiter, Miles Golding and Rodolfo Richter created an engaging conversation among voices ranging from the rich-toned to the wiry, the mellow to the hoarsely emphatic. Color was clearly a priority to Manze in this work, as it was in the chugging rhythms and slashing accents of Johann Schmelzer's dance suite, "The Fencing School."
Authentic performance has come a long way since the English Concert's founding in 1973, the elegant buzz and wheeze of the ensemble's early recordings under Trevor Pinnock having given way to a more energized attack and a wider expressive range under Manze.
Two Vivaldi concertos written for Emperor Charles VI received contrasting readings on Sunday, one glowing and soft-grained, the other trenchant and apt to lean into dissonances. Likewise, the musicians tripped airily through Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" but dug deeply into his Adagio and Fugue in C Minor.
-- Joe Banno