Less than a week after Maurizio Pollini played Book 1 of Debussy’s Préludes at the Royal Festival Hall, here was Richard Goode making the same choice for his Wigmore Hall recital. In a month that has been very good for pianists in London (Paul Lewis, Piotr Anderszewski, Yundi, Yuja Wang and Nelson Goerner have also been in town), the benefits of metropolitan living are clear.
Although Goode has performed in the RFH in the past, he has never been the big-boned virtuoso player who glitters in a venue of that size. As a pianist of warmth and due proportion, he is most at home in the classical and early romantic repertoire, with excursions back to Bach, and the Wigmore suits him very well.
His programme for this recital duly started with Schubert. A selection of four short pieces – two of the Impromptus, D899, and two of the late Drei Klavierstücke, D946 – set out with a more robust attitude than one might have expected. The Impromptu in C Minor, which opened the programme, summoned attention in no uncertain style, and the overall feeling of Goode’s Schubert here was authoritative, rather than especially intimate or affectionate (his encore, a heartfelt Schumann Arabesque, probably worked best).
In the Chopin group that followed the sound was again warm and full, where a magician such as Arthur Rubinstein would sparkle with the lightness of touch in his fingers. Goode’s four mazurkas offered instead a sweep of romantic feeling that was satisfying enough on its terms and, in the C Sharp Minor Mazurka, Op. 30 No. 4, explored a nicely contrasted, muted sound-world. The Polonaise-fantaisie in A Flat, Op. 61, though, remained rather earthbound – too much prose, too few flights of poetry.
The contrast with Pollini in the Debussy Préludes could hardly have been greater. Where Pollini had painted these 12 miniatures in the most ascetic tones – sometimes almost no colour at all, just subtly differentiated layers of light – Goode was full-toned, spontaneous, almost hearty at times. But there was more character: Puck let fly a rude sense of humour, the girl with the flaxen hair moved with an enticing playfulness, and the minstrels played with abandon, as if they really were enjoying the music.