Patricia Goodson’s Winding Path to — Foerster
As a child, the only music Patricia Goodson heard regularly was in church. Now this solo and ensemble pianist has released the first-ever CD collection of the complete solo piano works of JB Foerster.
Patricia Goodson has come a very long way. She has “arrived” on international stages, she records for Czech and western radio and television, and she teaches piano at New York University in Prague. But she comes from a childhood where her family, typical of the time, she says, had no radio or television.
“My father had a few classical records I found completely captivating,” she says – that is, when their record player worked.
But it was an old piano squeezed into her bedroom that started her on her music path. Her parents sent her, at 7, to a friend of her grandmother’s for lessons. “Above all,” Mrs Goodson says, “she taught me that the natural, and perhaps proper, response to music was to love it.”
She adds, “But I had no pre-professional training at all – no scales, no arpeggios, no repertoire, which later caused problems, of course.” Nonetheless, she graduated with a BA from prestigious Duke University and earned a master’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory. But she began her performance career with contemporary classical music.
“When you get out of music school, so do a zillion others,” she tells Opus Osm.“And they all want to play the same repertoire – Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Prokofiev. There are countless venues that take advantage of this. They have you play for free.” Mrs Goodson avoided this trap by premiering original works by composer-friends who had grant money to pay the performer.
“Few people wanted to play this stuff,” she says. “It is very difficult and has nothing to do with what you are taught in school.” And audiences at that time weren’t particularly open to the new music. But the work was paid; moreover, “I did like working with real, live composers and having something new and fresh to play.” She learned that composers usually work up until the last minute, “so I would have to cram to learn the scores, kicking and screaming all the way. But it was a good skill to develop.”
That necessity helped lead the pianist to a varied repertoire which includes the standard master works, plus a large collection of Czech composers not so well known outside this country. She will record Geraldine Mucha’s piano concerto in January, for example. Mrs Goodson has devoted much time to other women composers as well, and to the Holocaust composers.
Read Opus Osm’s Foerster bio by clicking here.
How did she choose JB Foerster to record? She describes him as “very much his own musician” with a personal and expressive style. “His primary concern was lyricism and melody. He made idiosyncratic use of harmony and dissonance, sometimes veering into impressionistic sonorities. He had no use for modernism.”
She continues, “Once his style matured in the late 1800s, he never changed it. His music, though written in Romantic style, is not immediately accessible – his piano music doesn’t leap off the page, as for example, Grieg’s does. You can sight-read Grieg and ‘get it’ immediately, but Foerster you have to take some time and figure out.”
With Mrs Goodson’s new CD, listeners can take all the time they need to figure Foerster out — and without relying on a record player that only sometimes works.
Mrs Goodson’s 4-CD recording, JB Foerster, Dreams, Memories and Impressions, on the Dutch label Brilliant Classics, was released Dec 1. It contains the complete piano solo works, more than 70 pieces. – oo
– Mary Matz, editor of Opus Osm
Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička