Reviewers attend many concerts because they must. There are a few that they review simply because they want to hear them. Richard Goode's all-Beethoven program yesterday at Howard Community College, the opening recital in the Candlelight Series, falls into the latter category.
Living in Baltimore -- where Goode makes annual appearances in the Candlelight and appears frequently in the Shriver Hall series -- gives ample opportunity to hear this splendid musician-pianist. But there is nothing new to say about him.
He remains one of the most dependable Beethoven interpreters. The five sonatas he performed contained surprises that kept the ear in continual expectation. What the ear heard not only delighted it but also informed it about the architecture of the music.
The often overlooked Sonata No. 10 in F Major, which opened the concert, was unusually tender. Goode gave a rapturous account of the lyrical first movement and one of the third movement that emphasized its capricious cross-rhythms. This made the composer's variations on the jaunty march-like tune of the second movement call all the more attention to themselves.
The variations in No. 10 made one all the more aware of the theme and variations that open Sonata No. 12 ("Funeral March"). Goode played this work wonderfully -- the variations were fresh-sounding, the perpetual motion scherzo sparkled with effrontery, the slow movement's funeral march suggested snare drums and brass, and the finale glistened with mystic joy.
There was nothing joyous about the performance of Sonata No. 23 ("Appassionata"). This piece does not go gently into the good night, but rides the whirlwind in a storm that approaches incoherence. The pianist played this music intelligently, suggesting the composer's inchoate rage without ever himself becoming incoherent. His tempos were remarkably fast -- though this never produced a lack of clarity -- and suggested leaping flames instead of granitic mass. In the coda, the pianist obeyed the composer's "presto" marking absolutely, riding into the coda at a tempo that suggested a destination in the Valley of Death and then safely riding out.
There were also beautiful things on the program's second half: a Sonata No. 6 in which the composer's play with counterpoint was charming; and a performance of Sonata No. 3 that supplied the requisite thrills in its arpeggiated flights and bursts of brilliance.