Review: Richard Goode, at Barber Institute, University of Birmingham

Spare us the wunderkind, over-hyped flavour-of-the-month young pianists.

Give us instead an unassuming middle-aged gentleman whose sole aim is to bring us music-making of the highest order, with nothing emblazoning “look at me!” to come between the composer and the audience.

And that gentleman was Richard Goode, whose recital of Schumann and Chopin (such kindred spirits) at the Barber Institute on Wednesday lifted listening to a higher level than we normally experience in these personality-driven times.

He had the benefit of a well-voiced piano, allowing generously clear textures and subtle pedalling, but however good the instrument, it is nothing without the artist driving it.

Schumann’s ‘Kinderszenen’ were delivered with an ever-present inner pulse, and with crisp little accents where appropriate. His ‘Kreisleriana’ was given with an undemonstrative strength which allowed narrative fluidity and much character.

An absorbing second half brought a mix of Chopin miniatures and more imposing works (the Scherzo in C-sharp minor and the Ballade in A-flat).

To all of these Goode brought rippling figuration and well-delineated melody-lines, whilst demonstrating what is a genuine ‘rubato’: a steady left-hand accompaniment under a right hand which soars and breathes on the ether.