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Musical heavyweights pool strengths at recital

Dawn Upshaw, Soprano & Richard Goode, Piano, April 12, 2005

The Vancouver Sun

by David Gordon Duke

American superstars Richard Goode and Dawn Upshaw have cult status for their respective legions of fans. In their joint program for the VRS they managed to pool their particular repertoire strengths to create an unorthodox but enchanting recital à deux.

Goode has made a focused commitment to the Viennese classics throughout his career. Upshaw, on the other hand, is known for her broad, adventurous repertoire – she sings everything from Dowland to Saariaho and Golijov.

Goode opened the program with one of Haydn’s last piano sonatas, his playing lucid, playful, and above all intelligent. Without any undue fuss or extravagance, he was able to match Haydn’s refined writing with gestures that made the overall structure of the three seemingly disparate movements clear and satisfying.

To complete the first half of the program, he was joined by Upshaw in Schumann’s twelve Liederkreis songs. This turned out to be a miraculous partnership. Upshaw’s preternatural clarity illuminated Schumann’s inner world of intense emotion, while at the keyboard Goode supported and intensified her every gesture, often summing up the content of each fleeting miniature in wonderfully nuanced postludes. Theirs was a reading founded on a deep shared understanding of the oh-so-Romantic poetry of Eichendorff and Schumann.

The second portion of the program explored the unlikely conn ection between Debussy and the inspired Russian dilettante Modest Mussorgsky. Debussy’s three songs that comprise Fêtes Galantes II are in an entirely different world to the Schumann cycle: the subtle, sophisticated yearnings of a modern sensibility.

Upshaw was cool, smoky, even sultry for a few moments. Goode concentrated on Debussy’s exquisite autumn-winter colours and textures, which modulated perfectly into a Debussy prelude before returning us to the more gallant world of the theatrical L’isle joyeuse.

The final work on the program was the five youthful vignettes that make up Mussorgsky’s The Nursery. Mussorgsky’s songs were far more extroverted than Debussy’s, but the connections were clear enough.

To tie the program back together, Schubert’s Im Fruhling, as a first encore, took an enthusiastic crowd back to the evening’s Viennese beginnings.

Wed Apr 13, 2005