We were primed for a grander finish that not even the pyrotechnics of "Feux d'artifice" can provide. But the impression was already made, recital or not: this is a compelling and artful disc by a rising talent.
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When pianist Spencer Myer played here two years ago, in his first performance in the Young Pianist Series, his stage personality already gave more attention on the music he played than to his mannerisms. He's still devoid of any flamboyant pretenses.
What he has added since that concert is a highly nuanced simultaneous management of multiple voices and textures. And it was that which was on display in his Sunday afternoon performance that opened this year's Young Pianist Series at the University of Tennessee Music Hall. In a superb performance of Maurice Ravel's "Alborada del gracioso," from Ravel's collection "Miroirs," played near the end of his program, the middle section had watercolor undertones of subtle, sustained dissonances that colored the space beneath the piece's crisp Spanish dance motifs.
One could also see the sunlight sparkling on the water while hearing it splash against the sides of the boat in Ravel's "Une bargue sur l'ocean" "A Boat on the Ocean" , which Myer played a few minutes earlier. Myer opened the concert with one of Beethoven's less-often-played sonatas, the "Sonata No.
In the second one, written in D Major, Myer had layers of images that had delicate shadows moving beneath the surface theme. There was also music by Gershwin, both in disguises of Earl Wild's etudes on "Embraceable You" and "Fascinating Rhythm," as well as Gershwin's own "Three Preludes," written with the intention of establishing himself as a serious classical composer and not just a creator of popular music. Always gracious on stage, Myer at the end rewarded the audience with encores that first ripped through Rachmaninoff's transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov "The Flight of the Bumblebee," then concluded with a gorgeous playing of Egon Petri's transcription of the soprano aria "Schafe konnen sicher weiden," from J.
Most of the musicians featured in the series are fresh out of conservatories and have incredible technical skills but sometime lack true artistry. Once in a while, a true outstanding performance happens, and that was the case of Tuesday's piano recital given by Spencer Myer. Similarly to past performers, Myer has an extensive list of prizes in competitions, famous teacher and important upcoming engagements.
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Unlike most, however, his recital showed not only potential talent but excellent skill and total professionalism. His program was an ambitious one that was almost overwhelming but delivered without flaws. It has a sunny sheen that is heard throughout its two movements. Myer undertook them with sensibility and stylistic awareness. It was especially refreshing to hear him take both repeats in the first movement instead of just the one at the end of the exposition -- a clear sign of his respect and understanding for the music of the German master.
Next came the "Sonata-Reminiscenza, Op. And extended one-movement work, it is typical of Medtner's conservative style. Although Myer performed the work with imagination and sensitbility, its positioning right after Beethoven's jewel was somewhat detrimental and exposed many of the piece's weaknesses. Up next, the Russian selections, "Four Etudes, Op.
Indeed, these short "Etudes" are not your typical Stravinsky; they are early works more reminiscent of Scriabin and lack the originality one would find in his mature works. The second half of the program consisted of Frederic Chopin's Four Ballades. Usually played as single pieces and usually closing programs thanks to their virtuosity , they feature Chopin at his highest genius.
IT is hard to envision works closer to the romantic ideals than these four pieces based on epic Polish poems. Once again, Myer delivered them in a most impressive way. Not once did he seem overwhelmed by the technical difficulties present in each piece, and he played them with romantic flair and a high dramatic sense. Bach, thrilling the audience and thus ending an evening of pure musicianship. In Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. He phrased the serene opening phrase with utmost clam and proceeded to set forth the first movement's luminous lines as if they were the most precious pearls.
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Everything was fluent, noble and clear, both in textural and structural terms. The second movement's alternating statements between pianist and orchestra found Myer using his subtlest powers to persuade the opposing forces to retreat. The finale had nimble grace and a buttery touch that drew the listener deeply into Beethoven's gleeful arguments. He won the type of standing ovation usually reserved for renowned keyboard heroes.
Spencer Myer once again lavished freshness and expressive logic on his program. He played Debussy's Images Book II with an emphasis on animated motion, nuanced dynamics and playful seduction. Myer concocted a magnificent banquet out of the score's dark brilliance and moodiness. This was a performance in an altogether different class to all the others. Not only is Myer an entirely finished artist, but his playing was so acutely logical yet expressive that the inimitable Mozartean magic of a great performance was patently evident. The slow movement was a case in point.
One hung on to every note, waiting for each melodic nicety in nearly breathless expectation. The best Mozart emanated from Myer. His playing of Concerto No. He drew very precise articulation and exceptionally sweet tone from the piano and was also justly rewarded with the best Mozart performance. Everything Myer did throughout this grueling competition possessed the imprint of singular artistry and integrity.
He interpreted Beethoven's Concerto No. Spencer Myer presented a programme which had an integrating musical and spiritual thread woven into its harmonic and stylistic fabric, although very varied in form and period.
He evinced an enthralling grasp of each work's structural and emotional impact. His supreme artistry displayed effortless control of dynamics and graceful fluidity in keyboard approach with his whole body entirely at his conceptual command. This quality places him in the league of the historic classical giants of the keyboard. In Samuel Barber's Sonata Op. The culminating four-part Fugue was accomplished in lucid power. Here rhythmic intricacies and melodic meditation were succinctly realized, highlighted by subtle pauses amidst explosive bravura chordal rhythmic figures.
Myer displayed an intense lyricism, beautifully executed. His command of the music was flawless.
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Myer floated through Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with ease, bringing a liquid romanticism to this most accessible piece. Demonstrating an almost unbearably perfect technique, Myer combined strength with a lightning suppleness that shows why he won the UNISA International Piano Competition not long after graduating from Juilliard. He shone particularly in the beautiful second movement, where his ardent and gentle playing contrasted with the aggressive orchestra part.
The sensitivity and fluency that must have impressed the various jurors were in bountiful evidence during Myer's recital. In works by a range of composers from Gluck to Cleveland's Frederick Koch, the pianist explored a wealth of colors and expressive moods as he paid fine attention to structural concerns. The score of Scriabin's Sonata No. It was epic: Beethoven's five piano concertos in two days.
And it was a triumphant traversal. The comfortable collaboration between Spencer Myer, last year's winner of the Unisa International Piano Competition, and the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa - conducted by Arjan Tien - displayed strong phrase contouring, finesse and responsive precision. Myer adopted a long-limbed, sinewy, almost ascetic approach, in which he combined exemplary musicianship with superb pianism, free of any distracting idiosyncracies. Throughout he maintained the same basic approach: beautiful sounds, an evenly balanced deployment of contrasts and expressive inflections.
Friday's concert was launched with the Concerto No.
It had Myer in resourceful form, giving a surprising variety of touch and power to hold the interest. Textures were crystalline. Concerto No. In the Concerto No. He floated the cantabile lines with fine-grained tone and unfailing clarity. Yet, in the flanking movements, he painted in vivid, primary colours. Myer played the opening bars of Concerto No. In the famous slow movement as was the case in the Adagio of the Emperor the playing was simply superb: controlled and aristocratic, by turns poetic and searching, virile and intense.
Myer played Concerto No. Most importantly, he showed an overall grasp of Beethoven's characteristic idiom and method. He was always acutely sensitive to the composer's many subtleties. Above all, he remained supremely poetic. Myer played the cadenzas, all by Beethoven, with effortless pianism. IT was nuanced playing to the hilt, warm as well as virtuosic. He fully deserved the ecstatic audience's standing ovations.
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Myer gave us a continually reflective and sensitive Brahms First Concerto, of a density that communicated to the entire hall and, like a miracle, to the orchestra as well. He's long on talent and short on distracting theatrics, so he straightaway made a great impression. Myer performed this haunting music with a simple directness that was quietly moving.
Haydn's Variations in F Minor, Hob. XVII:6, provided a platform for Myer to showcase his airy lightness, and always found the quiet breaths between the notes. Whether it was the minor key restlessness or the major key exuberance, he had what was needed, in just the right quantities. But the most dramatic moments of the recital came when he sat down to play three excerpts from Ravel's "Miroirs".
He closed with the charming "Alborada del gracioso" Morning Song of the Jester , with all its complicated technical elements combining to create pleasing sound well rendered by Myer. He ended his recital with cheers throughout the audience, many nearly leaping out of their seats to stand and applaud.