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A POSITIVE PROFUSION OF PIANISTS

Richard Goode’s is not a household name. The 42-year-old American pianist has been before the public for some 20 years as an unprepossessing performer and winner of some of the less glitzy competitions.

What Goode does is play the piano superbly well, in a relaxed, unhectoring manner--more often than not in recital and chamber magic--illuminating the music rather than the performer.

The latest of his hardly numerous recordings is a boxed set containing seven oft-recorded Beethoven sonatas: the “Pathetique,” “Moonlight,” “Pastoral,” “Tempest” and “Les Adieux” as well as two without nicknames, Nos. 25 in G and 27 in E minor (Book-of-the-Month Records, Camp Hill, Pa. 17012; available as three standard or two compact discs).

While Goode has a statement to make about each of these well-worn pieces, it is most often a probing, low-key statement. He is a temperate romantic, more partial to rubato-legato-cantabile and spacious tempos than to precipitousness, clipped phrases and percussiveness. The music inevitably has flow and energy under his fingers, but above all elegance and songfulness.

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Both sides of Alicia de Larrocha’s personality--the fiery purveyor of Spanish rhythms and the subdued Romantic--are on display in an attractive recorded recital (London 410 288-1) which, while devoted entirely to unfamiliar early music by her compatriot Enrique Granados, show us two sides of his artistic makeup as well.

Granados the nationalist is on exhibit in the “Six Pieces on Spanish Popular Songs,” whereas the cosmopolitan composer can be found in the “Allegro de Concierto” and “Escenas Romanticas,” with their Lisztian glitter, soulful harmonies that suggest Chopin, and Schumannesque melodic lilt.

Michael Tilson Thomas’ brilliant, Los Angeles-based youth, when he was as well-known for his virtuoso pianism as well as his precocious conducting abilities, is recalled in a newly recorded Gershwin program (CBS IM 39699).

The familiar Gershwin is represented by “Rhapsody in Blue,” in the first of its symphony-orchestra arrangements, and the Preludes for piano solo; then there are the occasionally encountered Second Rhapsody (with orchestra), the solo “Promenade” and some delightful solo rarities, chief among them “Short Story” of 1925.

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Tilson Thomas plays and conducts it all with terrific vitality, warmth and idiomatic flair, imparting equal weight to the jazzy and traditional Romantic elements in the scores. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is appropriately brash in the orchestrally accompanied works, with clarinetist Lorin Levee contributing a deliciously blatant clarinet solo to the “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Another pianist-conductor, the ubiquitous Vladimir Ashkenazy, adds another installment to his continuing Mozart piano concerto cycle with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The latest release pairs the works in C, K. 503, and D, K. 537, the so-called “Coronation” Concerto (London 411 810).

It emerges one of the less satisfying components of the series, largely for the failure of Ashkenazy, the conductor, to supply the requisite lift to the grand opening movement of K. 503 or to project vigorously the great orchestral moments of the trickily episodic finale.

The “Coronation,” however, comes off well, with a healthy measure of the sparkle missing in K. 503. But then K. 537 is a less sophisticated piece, notably in Mozart’s casual handling of the orchestra, which does little more than echo the piano’s phrases.

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A recording of Ravel’s Left-Hand Concerto attracted considerable attention to its little-known young principals, Soviet pianist Andrei Gavrilov and British conductor Simon Rattle, when released in 1978. It is now even more impressive in a sonically enhanced reissue (Angel AM-34725).

But the news here is the overside, containing Gavrilov’s performance of Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit,” also recorded in 1978 but not previously available in this country.

This is an interpretation grandly Romantic in its broad dynamic scale and variety of tone, decidedly modern in its driving rhythmicality. A heroic performance to be sure, but one equally convincing for the menacing quiet of Gavrilov’s rendering of the “Gibet” movement.

The short-lived American pianist William Kapell (1922-1953) is the latest honoree in RCA’s “Legendary Performers” series. He is represented by a marvelously energetic account of Prokofiev’s Third Concerto, with the Dallas Symphony under Antal Dorati, as well as Khachaturian’s egregious Concerto, with Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony, in which all concerned do, presumably, all that they can do.

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Kapell was once considered the archetypal American pianist of the “new school,” his playing characterized by unsympathetic elements of the musical press as driving, tense, percussive and “heartlessly” virtuosic.

Kinetic energy was a major component of the Kapell style. But equally evident here--to the listener able to hear beyond the surface brilliance of the Prokofiev and hack his way through Khachaturian’s harmonic thickets and flat-footed melodies--is Kapell’s ability to shape the big phrases, to caress as well as to hammer.


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