There were only two composers represented on pianist Richard Goode’s Cliburn at the Kimbell program Thursday night, but there was variety aplenty.
The two were contrasting giants of the keyboard: Bach and Chopin. Their juxtaposition alone guaranteed variety — it’s highly unlikely that anyone would mistake the music of one for that of the other.
Goode opened his recital in the Renzo Piano Pavilion with four selections from one of the towering masterpieces of music: Book 2 of Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.”
Strictly speaking, this set is a technical exercise — Bach wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of a different method of tuning from that common at the time. But the technical exercise is also high art — a point reinforced by the masterful interpretations Thursday evening.
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Goode’s playing throughout was notable for its accuracy, clarity — especially important in strongly contrapuntal music such as Bach’s — and details of interpretation.
Bach himself supplied variety, both in the preludes and fugues of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and in the following Partita No. 6. The music was sometimes majestic, and sometimes joyous and playful.
The appealing prelude and fugue in A minor, with its chromatic movement and power, was a reminder that Bach was an organist — though that impression may have been reinforced by the fact that Goode was playing on a grand piano rather than a harpsichord.
Goode was equally effective in a very different kind of music: Chopin’s. It is remarkable that with the exception of one work, the Ballade No. 3, Goode stayed away from “Chopin’s Greatest Hits” — the most familiar pieces one would expect on a Chopin program. Those played were four nocturnes, four mazurkas and the “Polonaise-Fantaisie” in A-flat, Opus 61.
(By the way, Goode embellished Bach’s and Chopin’s music by humming along. His vocalizing remained quiet enough that it never really became a bother. His facial expressions reminded me a bit of Cliburn Competition participant Alessandro Deljavan — another expressive musician.)
Goode’s program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Friday, in line with the Cliburn’s new policy of scheduling doubles in smaller venues rather than the larger, more expensive Bass Hall.