The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Master pianist Richard Goode performs music by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Alban Berg in a MUST-HEAR recital this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater | November 1, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

He may not have the instant worldwide name recognition and box-office appeal of, say, Lang-Lang or Martha Argerich.

But in The Ear’s book American pianist Richard Goode (below) is nonetheless a superstar.

That is because Goode is a chameleon in the best sense.

Whatever he plays — live or on recordings — feels as if someone with a deep understanding and a natural affinity for the unique qualities of that specific composer and work is at the keyboard.

His Bach always sounds so Bachian. His Mozart always sounds so Mozartean. His Beethoven always sounds so Beethovenian. His Schubert always sounds so Schubertian. And his Brahms – for which he won a Grammy – always sounds so Brahmsian. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Goode discuss how he deliberately chooses a selective repertoire that he can return to again and again.)

Whenever you hear Goode, you come away thinking, “Now that is  how the composer meant his music to sound.” Goode just disappears into the music.

Goode, who co-directed the venerable summertime Marlboro Music Festival for 14 years until 2013, always puts himself at the service of the music, never the other way around as so many other firebrand virtuosos do.

Goode, a shy man who collects books and fine art, is not given to flamboyance or theatrics. His interpretations always seem exactly right, never exaggerated and weird but both beautiful and emotionally convincing. He is, in short, a complete musician — recitalist, soloist in concertos and chamber music partner — and not just a great pianist. His is a quiet, self-effacing virtuosity.

You get the idea.

And you can sample such superlative musicianship for yourself this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. when Goode returns to perform a varied recital in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

This is a performer and a program that no serious fan of the piano – professional or amateur, teacher or student — should miss.

On the program of music from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, are: a selection of Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, by Johann Sebastian Bach; Alban Berg’s Sonata No. 1; Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101, which Goode, who has recorded all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, says is his favorite; the Nocturne in B Major, Op. 62, No. 1, and the Mazurka in C-sharp Minor, Op. 50, No. 3, by Chopin.

Wisconsin Public Radio host Norman Gilliland (below) will deliver a free pre-concert lecture at 6 p.m.

Tickets run from $20 to $47.

Here is a link to more background and information about obtaining tickets:


  1. What a glorious weekend! Friday the opera, Carmen.
    Saturday an outstanding piano concert by Richard Goode. I sat close enough to get his vocal concert, too. Reminiscent of wonderful Glen Gould…. but, with Gould you could get the added vocal concert without
    having to sit up close. Then Sunday afternoon, the Pro Arte Quartet played beautifully at the museum.
    Welcome back Parry Karp, sounding perfectly recovered, to complete our marvelous Quartet.


    Comment by Ingraham — November 6, 2017 @ 12:22 pm

  2. I agree with the EAR. I think Richard Goode is one of the finest classical interpreters around. His playing is clean and unpretentious.I have his 2005 recording of Mozart concertos and it’s fabulous. I’m not so familiar with his interpretations of modern music, but under the hands of such an insightful player, Alban Berg’s work should be tantalizing.

    Comment by Sandy Tabachnick — November 1, 2017 @ 8:47 am

  3. Richard Goode is a master on the piano, with a broad repertoire but especially good with Mozart and Beethoven. It’s a delight to see that he will be playing at the Memorial Union. This is a real treat for students and classical music lovers.

    Mr. Gilliland is also knowledgeable and will doubtlessly provide lots of good information about the program. Kudos to the UW Music people for putting this heavenly program together.

    Comment by fflambeau — November 1, 2017 @ 7:42 am

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