Feb. 17, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
David Goode, one of the brightest stars in the constellation of British organists, displayed a keen ear for tone color and a sure grasp of the English style of impressionism in a recital presented by the Richmond chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
That style more commonly
is termed “pastoral,” as it seems to evoke green fields, soft breezes, larks ascending and other aspects of nature. Its outdoorsiness, however, is more suggestive than illustrative – rarely do you hear water sonically represented as vividly by a Brit as it is by Debussy, for example; and in the English style there’s a deeply ruminative quality bordering on reverence, closer to nature worship (or worship amid nature) than nature sound-painting.
That was my impression as I heard Goode play Herbert Howells’ Rhapsody, Op. 17, No. 3, and Frank Bridge’s Adagio in E major. Goode’s treatment of both pieces brought out their kinship (Howells’ closer than Bridge’s) to the early 20th-century English pastoral/
A third English selection, the Prelude in E flat major of the prominent church musician William H. Harris, is firmly rooted in the Anglican liturgical tradition. It served as a useful interlude of decompression after Goode’s intense performance of an organ transcription of the Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004, originally for solo violin.
In The Bach, which opened the recital, Goode both established his virtuoso bona fides and signalled his intent to explore all the dynamic and coloristic potential of the Aeolian-Skinner organ at St. Stephen’s, recently refitted with a console that can be moved into the view of listeners.
Goode masterfully traced the rising, then receding arc of volume and expression in the Chaconne, perhaps not with the same visceral immediacy and spiritual impact that the best violinists can bring to the piece, but with much greater effect than can be heard and felt in the familiar piano transcription by Feruccio Busoni.
The organist applied comparable skill in sound-sculpting to César Franck’s Choral No. 1 in E major – a work whose contours might sound extremely subtle, going on indistinguishable, in lesser hands – and exercised his coloristic sensibilities in Liszt’s Concert Study “Waldesrauschen” (“Forest Murmurs”); Goode’s own Prelude “One thing I ask” (from Psalm 27); and “Mozart Changes” (1995), a semi-jazzy takeoff on the theme of the finale of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D major, K. 576, by the Hungarian composer Zsolt Gárdonyi.
For an encore, Goode played a dazzlingly speedy arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”