Emotion, timing and backstory: A master class with pianist Richard Goode

February 16, 2016

Internationally acclaimed pianist Richard Goode shared some compelling advice with Interlochen Arts Academy piano students on Feb. 8 during a master class in Dendrinos Chapel.

Four students performed for Goode during the class: Yung-yi Chen, performing Beethoven's Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 81a ("Les Adieux"); Sua Lee, performing Beethoven’s Sonata in A-Flat major, Op. 26; Jiarui Yu, performing Beethoven’s Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 ("Appassionata"); and Minyi Zhang, performing Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26.

Goode was visiting Interlochen for a performance of Beethoven's last works on Feb. 9, and agreed to a master class with Academy piano students. "So if you get a chance to see (Interlochen Presents Executive Director) Christopher Gruits, you can thank him for us," said Michael Coonrod, instructor of piano at Interlochen, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Goode offered students insight into the nuances of playing the piano, particularly Beethoven's works—the emotions, the story behind the music, tips on interpretation, telling the story behind the composition, and more.

One of the key elements Goode stressed in playing Beethoven is to consider the man himself, and the weight he placed upon tempo. "It's very important to remember that Beethoven was deaf," he told students. "After a performance, he would ask people, 'How was the tempo?'

"Try to do exactly what he says—he was very careful," Goode added. "If he didn't say 'crescendo,' don’t."

Goode gave suggestions regarding the feel of some of the pieces as well, sharing the stories behind the works, and how that might inform how they be played. Les Adieux, for example, was written by Beethoven for his patron, the Archduke Rudolph, who was forced to leave Vienna in 1809 due to Napoleon’s attack on the city. Goode suggested that Chen think of the various emotions that come from a parting of friends—a measured goodbye, sadness and longing, the excitement and the anticipation of the possibility of meeting again—and reflect them in his performance.

"The clue ... is the emotion," Goode said. "The clue is the feel and the tone of the whole piece."

Noted for exceptional expressiveness, depth and power, Goode is recognized as one of today's premier performers of classical and romantic era music. He is a regular performer with orchestras around the world and a prolific recording artist, earning several Grammy nominations for his recordings. Currently serving as co-artistic director of Marlboro Music School in Marlboro, New York, Goode still finds time to tour extensively.

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