The first piano teacher of Richard Goode was the Hungarian Elvira Szigeti which might be one of the reasons for the fact that he loves playing for the Hungarian audience so much. When he first met Iván Fischer they felt instant rapport and this harmony between them is still alive. Read our interview with Richard Goode and meet at our concerts on 27, 28 and 29 January, Müpa Budapest!
Last year, in November you had a very successful piano concert in the Liszt Academy (Budapest), after a short time you are coming again to Hungary. It seems, you like to play for the Hungarian audience. Is that so?
It is true that I like Hungarian audiences very much, but then I like all audiences who listen attentively and react enthusiastically. I remember an especially warm and excited reception given to the Brahms 3rd Symphony in Budapest a few years ago, in which the BFO, Iván Fischer, the conductor, and the audience were all swept up in a great wave of musical love - it was very moving!
Your friendship with Iván Fischer has a longer history. How did it start?
I met Iván Fischer with the Orchestra de Paris in 1996, performing Mozart's piano concerto K 271. I felt an instant rapport with him, and also later on when I worked with him and his own wonderful orchestra. He is always seeking an ideal and avoids anything routine.
After performing in Budapest, you are going together with Iván and the BFO on a longer tour to the USA, where you are at home. The venues (New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Lincoln Center, Chicago Symphony, the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor and Celebrity Series of Boston) where you are going to perform at, are the most popular classical scenes. The audience knows you very well. Do you feel that you have to ensure them each time when you perform, that you bring them something “new?
When one plays pieces as well-known as the Beethoven concerti, it is tempting to say to oneself, 'What can I say new about this piece that others have not said before?' This seems to me to be a mistake. My goal is to find the clearest and most vivid statement of what I hear. If I can make it fully alive for myself, I hope it will also be that way for others.
I learned that one of your first teachers, to whom your father sent you when you were 10 to learn the piano, was Elvira Szigeti, aunt of the great Hungarian violinist, Joseph Szigeti. How do you remember her? What did she give you to get close to music and to the Hungarian musicians?
Elvira Szigeti, who was my first piano teacher, was a student of István Thoman and a classmate of Bartók. Her husband was the violinist Dezső Szigeti, who was the uncle of Joseph and also a student of Hubay. She was a great lady and a demanding and generous teacher. She gave me lots of Bartók along with Bach and Mozart. It was my introduction to a real European household.
It seems that one of your priorities, if not the first name in music history is Beethoven. I know it is difficult to tell anything new about this fantastic composer, but perhaps you could say something about your personal feelings playing his piano concertos.
I would like to mention a few things I particularly treasure in these 2 very different concerti (Beethoven no. 2 and no. 4): in the 2nd Concerto, the buoyancy and youthful charm of the opening Allegro ends in a tremendous and incongruous cadenza, written much later. It is the older Beethoven giving his younger self a good shaking!
The 4th Piano Concerto was written by him, when he started to lose his hearing. What does the interpreter feel working with this particular piece?
The 4th Concerto first movement combines extreme delicacy of detail with structural grandeur. And the pastoral theme in the finale gives an amazing vision as of the Elysian Fields.