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Dan Goodman delights audience with improvisations

DAN GOODMAN

Piano recital.

Killian Hall, July 9.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

DAN GOODMAN, musician extaordinaire, piano concerto soloist, previously symphony orchestra first cellist, chamber player and director of the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble Orchestra, and -- by the way physicist as well -- received his PhD in physics last month but can't keep away from the MIT concert hall. On July 9 he delighted an appreciative Killian Hall crowd with a varied program which showed both the strength of his musicianship and his versatility at the keyboard.

Only one thing failed to please, and I perhaps here show my prejudice against Bach played on the piano. The program began with the three preludes and fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier, Vol. 1. To succeed they need to be played with bounce and resilience: to my ears they sounded heavy and mushy.

The concert really took off, nonetheless, with a group of Brahms Ballades, Op. 10. Goodman showed a keen understanding for their rhythm, bringing out the lilting qualities of No. 2, the animated side of No. 3 and evoking a sense of calm and nicely-balanced proportions to No. 6.

The Brahms Op. 79 Rhapsody followed. Strongly articulated, the performance also showed Goodman's sympathy for the poetry of the work.

But if Goodman's Brahms was beguiling, his Chopin -- he played five 'Etudes -- was dazzling. There were a few moments when he faltered, but they could be safely ignored given the sparkle and overall panache of his playing, which was not only in the virtuoso tradition, but showed an understanding for the deeper musical concerns of the music. There are moments amidst the brilliance of Chopin's music which demand reflectiveness and warmth. Many pianists, eager simply to show off, brush them off. Goodman found them and exposed them.

To complete the program Goodman improvised on themes suggested by the audience. His treatment of the "Jeopardy" theme was deadbeat, jazzy and very clever. His variations on Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kij'e were fluent and witty, his st"urm und drang approach to "Loch Lomond" bringing an appropriately Scottish Highland darkness to the theme. Yes, there was a drone in the left hand as well!

Someone asked for "Over the Rainbow," and the audience received a compulsory -- but forgivable -- dose of hard-core schmaltz. "Yellow Submarine," was next selected over Mozart, and Mr. Goodman was only saved from getting a good panning in revenge from this critic by ending his concert with some hilarious Mozartian variations on "Maple Leaf Rag." It was an enjoyable afternoon, and gave much pleasure to all.