Pianist Richard Goode, still searching for truth

The eminent pianist Richard Goode doesn’t like to listen to his own recordings.

Except, perhaps, when he’s at the dentist. Goode, who returns to Chicago for an SCP Piano recital Feb. 20, insists that he avoids listening to his discography. “Nope, that is a total no-no,” he told the Herald of Glasgow, Scotland. “I’m too afraid that I won’t agree with my interpretations!”

But at an appointment, while waiting for his dentist set a filling, he found himself listening to a Brahms intermezzo over the office’s radio. “I sort of enjoyed the performance, and when it finished, I said to my dentist, ‘I wonder who was playing that?’”

It turned out to be Goode himself. He admits he pleased by the discovery but “mostly I just thought that I should probably go to the dentist more often.”

At Orchestra Hall, Goode will perform a mostly 19th-century program of Schumann’s Papillons, Schubert’s Sonata in A Minor, Bartók’s Hungarian Peasant Songs and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101

After more than 50 years as a performer, Goode emphasizes that he is still searching. “Always searching for the right expression, and it’s maddening. Take the Mozart G Major Concerto [No. 17]. It’s one of the first pieces I ever played. The challenge is to find the right balance of humor, grace and vivacity. Every time it’s still different, but when I find it — that is, when the conductor and the orchestra and I all manage to get that balance right together — I enter a kind of groove. That’s the sweet spot. That’s what I’m searching for.”