Spencer Myer includes in his 2016-17 season debuts with the Evansville Philharmonic, Macon Symphony Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus and Symphony of the Redwoods, as well as return engagements with the Traverse, Springfield (MA and OH), Bozeman and Wyoming Symphonies and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, in addition to recital appearances in Connecticut, Houston, Washington and Idaho.
Spencer Myer's orchestral, recital and chamber music performances have been heard throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia. He has been soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Boise, Dayton, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestras, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, the Baton Rouge, Indianapolis, Knoxville, New Haven, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Springfield and Tucson Symphony Orchestras, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, Mexico's Orquesta Filarmonica de Jalisco and Beijing's China National Symphony Orchestra, collaborating with, among others, conductors Nicholas Cleobury, Leslie B. Dunner, Robert Franz, Bernhard Gueller, Jacques Lacombe, Jahja Ling, Timothy Muffitt, Kevin Rhodes, Lucas Richman, Klauspeter Seibel, Steven Smith and Victor Yampolsky. His 2005 recital/orchestral tour of South Africa included a performance of the five piano concerti of Beethoven with the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa, followed by return orchestra and recital tours in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
Spencer Myer's recital appearances have been presented in New York City's Weill Recital Hall, 92nd Street Y and Steinway Hall, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center and London’s Wigmore Hall, while many of his performances have been broadcast on WQXR (New York City), WHYY (Philadelphia), WCLV (Cleveland) and WFMT (Chicago). An in-demand chamber musician, he has appeared the past four summers at the Lev Aronson Legacy Festival in Dallas with cellists Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirshbaum, Amit Peled and Brian Thornton, and has enjoyed a recurring partnership with the Miami String Quartet at the Kent/Blossom Music Festival. Other artistic partners include clarinetist David Shifrin, sopranos Nicole Cabell, Martha Guth and Erin Wall, the Jupiter and Pacifica string quartets and the Dorian Wind Quintet.
Spencer Myer's career was launched with three important prizes: First Prize in the 2004 UNISA International Piano Competition in South Africa, the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship from the American Pianists Association and the Gold Medal from the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition. He is also a laureate of the 2007 William Kapell, 2005 Cleveland and 2005 Busoni international piano competitions. He enjoys an esteemed reputation as a vocal collaborator since winning the 2000 Marilyn Horne Foundation Competition. Mr. Myer was a member of Astral Artists' performance roster from 2003-2010.
An enthusiastic supporter of the education of young musicians, Spencer Myer has served as a guest faculty at the Oberlin and Baldwin-Wallace Conservatories of Music, and in the fall of 2015, he was appointed Artist-Teacher of Piano and Collaborative Piano at Boston's Longy School of Music of Bard College.
Spencer Myer's debut CD for harmonia mundi usa - solo music of Busoni, Copland, Debussy and Kohs - was released in the fall of 2007 to critical acclaim by Fanfare and Gramophone magazines. He can also be heard on a composer-conducted Naxos CD in performances of three concerti from Huang Ruo's Chamber Concerto Cycle and in a performance of Ravel's Chansons madecasses, included on "Intimate Masterpieces," a 2013 CD featuring faculty and alumni of the Oberlin Conservatory and issued by Oberlin Music. Mr. Myer's most recent recording -- "Bolcom: Selected Rags" -- is scheduled for release in January of 2017 on the Steinway & Sons label.
Spencer Myer is a Steinway Artist.
William Bolcom has proved his compositional versatility in virtually every genre you can name. As a masterly pianist, he has used keyboard techniques to serve whatever musical mission he's set out to accomplish. Over several decades, Bolcom combined his gifts to forge a collection of piano rags that have kept performers and listeners mesmerized.
Pianist Spencer Myer certainly sounds smitten with these disarming pieces. He plays Bolcom's miniature brainstorms with equal doses of sass and sweetness, giving full voice to the drama, poetry and humour that overflow from the page. In Myer's nimble hands, the music reveals the affectionate originality the composer lavished on a popular American art form that had languished for almost half a century until performers and scholars began championining it again in the late 1960s.
Bolcom can be heard paying tribute to ragtime greats, including Scott Joplin, while mixing in his own delicious harmonic and rhythmic flavours. Syncopated figures rub shoulders with haunting melodies as the 16 selections unfold on this disc, which contains three suites whose movements are interspersed with other rags.
The music evokes everything from ghostly apparitions and scenes in the Garden of Eden -- including a naughty serpent whose kiss requires the pianist to literally knock on wood -- to sundry manifestations of ragtime exuberance and lyricism. Bolcom infuses every piece with vivid character and Myer seizes the opporutnity to illuminate these concise treasures, which deserve a place within recital programmes, and not merely as encore afterthoughts.
William Bolcom is an artist with a wondrous vision, a man whose musical discoveries pledged to honor mentors (Darius Milhaud, in particular), pre-developed genres (Ragtime) and eclectic rock (Grateful Dead, specifically keyboardist Tom Contstanten.) It was during his stint as faculty member at Queens College (under tutelage of Rudi Blesh) that ignited him to reach into the past and create his own modernistic twist on an earlier beloved theme.
Scott Joplin is the foundation for Mr. Bolcom’s compositions, yet these pieces stretch the spectrum with frequented quirky pokes and jabs of clever dialogue, making the CD a poignant display of ragtime “in the now.” This first-time Spencer Myer release under the Steinway & Sons label is one that will absorb the listener with instantaneous affection.
Though somewhat somber and wistful (with a more optimistic middle section), Mr. Myer’s expression of The Graceful Ghost Rag unfurls with graciousness especially since the work tributes Bolcom’s father. The ensuing Glad Rag captures the Julliard-trained pianist at his brightest while the jaunty effervescence of Raggin’ Rudi conjures the perky music from The Sting.
Frequently, the “ghost” beckons as Bolcom’s musical protagonist, each one skittering about but with contrasting temperament. Mr. Myer dispenses these wispy formations with introspective coloring…that’s what he does especially well: a raucous “Poltergeist” ghost and a capricious, gauzy “Dream Shadows” ghost are a few examples showing that there’s personality in these wraiths. Clever use of the middle sostenuto pedal and wood tapping (ref: Rossini’s Il signor Bruschino) helps add blustery dashes inside the Knockout Rag while the penultimate Rag Latino finds hints of Leonard Bernstein creeping its way into the score.
One of the highlights is the four-movement The Garden of Eden with its sparkly detail, depicting what one would expect to hear during a silent film. Spencer Myer quickly sets the mood and effectively grasps the Bolcom dynamics in this nearly 20 minute melodramatic work...a stand-alone knockout piece.
There’s plenty of variety in “Piano Rags”, one which deserves a good listen. And while Bolcom’s music reaches beyond expectant Joplin, Spencer Myer is there to assist by carefully fashioning with thought and heart. Highly recommended.
As each new player joins the fray, one remembers the imbalance between the seven hundred pianists listed in the British Music Yearbook, and the thirty who make a decent living from concerts.
Newcomers must find their unique selling point, and when you’re a normal sort of guy with no distinguishing marks or disabilities – look what schizophrenia did for David Helfgott – that comes down to art. Spencer Myer’s CV suggests eight years well spent, following his first win in a South African piano contest: he’s toured indefatigably, become a professor, and accompanied singers, with his Wigmore debut being part of the spoils of victory from a competition in New Orleans. Since London is the classical-music capital of the world, and the Wigmore is chamber music’s Mecca, a gig there is the ultimate pianistic goal.
Myer’s programme was itself a showcase, offering an interesting mix of styles, and starting with a sonata by the original creator of that form, Joseph Haydn. Composed for Haydn’s pupil Princess Marie Esterhazy, the two-movement ‘Sonata in G major HXVI:40’ assumes a high degree of technical brilliance, plus an ability to extract comedy as the surprises are sprung. Myer brought to it a firm but flexible touch, and a nice feel for the architecture: it made a perfect appetiser before Debussy’s ‘Preludes pour piano - Book 1’ which constituted the main course.
Since these came courtesy of the same touch, we were short-changed on the mystery of ‘Danseuses de Delphes’ and on the misty suggestiveness of ‘Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir’, but other gems in this collection emerged with vivid clarity. The way the wind blew across the plain and the footsteps silently appeared in the snow was beautifully evoked, while the submerged cathedral rose and sank majestically, as powered by the luxurious quality of Myer’s sound.
The rest of the evening was devoted to Liszt’s ‘Three Petrarch Sonnets’ – poetically delivered – and works by his two star pupils. The virtuosity of Albeniz’s ‘Iberia Book 4’ was superbly honoured, as were the extreme demands of Moszkowski’s ‘Caprice Espagnol’. After making the hardest things look easy, Myer played us out with a gentle Bach transcription, whose web of cantabile themes went at different speeds and cast a lovely spell. Myer is definitely a man to watch.
CONDUCTOR CARLOS RIAZUELO, PIANIST SPENCER MYER SHINE IN CONCERTS WITH LPO,
This past month, the big news involved two performers -- conductor Carlos Riazuelo and pianist Spencer Myer. If you missed them in concert, there soon will be plenty of chances to catch up.
I was able to hear three of the four pianists that worked with the LPO under Riazuelo. Antti Siirala and Dmitri Levkovich both delivered graceful, professional work, but it was Spencer Myer, who impressed me most when he performed this past Saturday at Loyola University's Roussel Hall. Myer showed the same golden tone and inward, spiritual qualities that earned him a gold medal in the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition. His Loyola appearance at the "Concerto Showcase" was part of the prize offered to medalists by the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans, which sponsors the competition.
Myer, Riazuelo and the LPO all sounded great in Rachmaninov's demanding "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini." With only a single rehearsal, they never missed a cue with entrances, exits or sudden dynamic shifts. But this performance wasn't just about realizing a score. It conjured Paganini -- the legendary, "demonic" violinist who once ruled Europe's concert stages -- and it reminded one that the composer, too, was a renowned keyboard virtuoso. Myer seemed to channel Rachmaninov, with flickering cross-hand patterns, sweeping arpeggios and octave runs that meshed with the orchestra's jazz-flavored string pizzicatos and pulsing brass. And Myer sounded just as good in the quiet moments, making it clear that the piano is a string instrument, one able to sustain legato lines that resemble a human voice.
Myer will return April 15-16 for performances with the LPO under the baton of resident conductor Rebecca Miller.
IN AN INTIMATE SPACE, AND INTRICATE PERFORMANCE FIT FOR A KING,
One of the benefits of concerts by the intrepid Chameleon Arts Ensemble is its performance venue. Most of its concerts take place at the Goethe-Institut, in what must have once been an oversized living room. The intimacy of the space makes it possible to experience the music in the kind of proximity that the term “chamber music’’ used to imply.
That sense of immediacy was present throughout Chameleon’s Saturday night concert, nowhere more so than in its centerpiece: an impassioned and broadly scaled performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet. One could hear and admire not just the familiar, surging themes but also the intricate details that often go unnoticed in the tumult, especially when the piece is played in larger halls.
That intimacy also allowed one to appreciate the superb playing of guest pianist Spencer Myer, who anchored the Brahms with poised, alert musicianship and generous tone. The strings matched him in intensity, though their sound was often somewhat wiry.
The Brahms occupied the second half of a lengthy program that opened with three diverse samples of 20th-century fare. Irving Fine’s Partita for Wind Quintet was a pleasant and rhythmically deft specimen of neoclassicism. It was followed by “Try Me, Good King,’’ a song cycle for which composer Libby Larsen drew the texts from the last words of the wives of Henry VIII. Henry’s first five marriages ended in annulment, death, or execution, and Larsen weaves a complex musical tapestry around their words of resignation (Catherine of Aragon) defiance (Anne Boleyn) and deep regret (Katherine Howard). Soprano Sabrina Learman sang with a keen sense of each song’s character, though with an excess of vibrato in places, and Myer was a sympathetic accompanist.
With crisp timing, exquisite touch, and a firm grasp of musical proportion, American pianist Spencer Myer earned the top spot in the 20th annual New Orleans International Piano Competition on Sunday.
In his final round performance at Loyola University, he bested two fine pianists: silver medalist Dmitri Levkovich and bronze medalist Vakhtang Kodanashvili.
Myer played Beethoven's "Sonata No. 24" and a colorful selection of programmatic works by Franz Liszt and Isaac Albeniz. His 50-minute recital matched what veteran observers and the six-person jury had seen throughout the competition: an unruffled professional who consistently drew singing, lyrical sounds from his Steinway concert grand.
Perhaps it helped that Myer had competed in New Orleans before, earning a bronze medal in 2003. During this year's marathon, he presented recitals on Tuesday and Friday, part of a 5-day semifinal round that featured work by a dozen pianist from around the world. This year's field, culled from 105 competitors who submitted recordings, was an especially strong one, reflecting the growing status of the New Orleans contest. The semifinalists included two other medalists from past years.
This year's jury showered Myer -- a 29-year-old graduate of the Julliard School and the Oberlin Conservatory -- with $20,000 and host of performance opportunities. He will return to Roussel Hall -- the site of the competition -- for a solo recital in 2009.
Myer also will play two concerts with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and will also appear with orchestras in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. The Musical Arts Society of New Orleans, which organizes the competition, will also arrange a Myer recital at London's famed Wigmore Hall -- the British equivalent of a Carnegie Hall debut. Myer also won the $1,000 prize for the best performance of a work by Claude Debussy...
...Myer established his standing from the outset with his prize-winning account of works from Debussy's "Images" during the semifinals. With Debussy, he demonstrated a phenomenal touch that let him conjure harps, chimes and other delicate sonorities, and a whiplash rhythmic sense that kept these works from degenerating into pastel picture-painting. He brought those same virtues to the only contemporary work performed during the competition: Carl Vine's "Piano Sonata No. 1." On Friday, Myer negotiated Vine's pointillistic 1990 composition, finding a compelling narrative line amid rapt silences, jazz harmonies, tone clusters and long slides down the keyboard.
Myer proved just as fine a storyteller on Sunday as he tackled Beethoven's "Sonata No. 24" and works that brought out his coloristic abilities: selections from Liszt's "Years of Pilgrimage" and "Iberia" by Albeniz. One could almost smell the orange blossoms in Myer's perfumed account of "Evocacion." In "El Puerto" he set one swaying to Spanish dance rhythms. With the Liszt, he wrapped the room in sound, reminding one that the piano is a string instrument. Although the technical demands of Liszt's works make them familiar fare at piano competitions, Myer kept them fresh, showing how they call forth the athlete, the intellectual and the seer in every pianist. Myer turned out to be all three.
PIANO RECITAL A RIDE FROM MELANCHOLY TO EUPHORIA,
Moments before launching into Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, pianist Spencer Myer offered an observation.
“This sonata is probably Beethoven’s most famous work,” said Myer. “But a lot of people probably don’t know the piece has three movements.”,
Myer did more than play the complete “Moonlight” Sonata on Tuesday night at Joslyn Art Museum. He actually did the music justice. He played the famed Adagio sostenuto movement with glistening tranquillity and the second-movement Allegretto with stylish phrasing and sensitive dynamic shading.
But the real treat came in the third movement. Myer actually played the upward-rushing sixteenth-note arpeggios exactly the way Beethoven intended, both fast and extremely soft. His welcome attention to detail made the movement’s occasional stormy outbursts seem all the more violent and dramatic.
The rest of Myer’s Tuesday Musical Concert Series recital was just as successful and satisfying, both for the pianist’s polish and the variety of his programming.
Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight”) is widely regarded as the first true Romantic piano sonata. Leos Janacek’s Sonata 1.X.1905 (“From the Streets”), also on Myer’s program, is often seen as the last Romantic sonata.
This two-movement work possesses all the emotional storm and stress associated with 19th-century Romanticism. But it also contains some of the harmonic dissonance and rhythmic angularity of 20th-century modernism. Myer played the piece with aching lyricism and an almost operatic sort of drama.
Tuesday’s recital opened with Handel’s Suite No. 2 in F major. Handel, of course, composed his keyboard suites for Baroque harpsichord. In his interpretation, Myer came up with a thoughtful compromise. He adhered to all the niceties of Baroque performance practice, playing with terraced dynamics and bouncy dance rhythms. But he played his modern Steinway with warmth and emotion, rescuing the music from dusty antiquarianism.
The highlight of the evening arguably came with Myer’s performance of Schubert’s Four Impromptus, Op. 90. These remarkably colorful mood pieces explore every conceivable emotion, from melancholy to euphoria. Myer played them from the heart, with immediacy and deep feeling.
Myer closed with two movements from Spanish composer Enrique Granados’ “Goyescas.” These pieces combine Lisztian pyrotechnics with lyrical fire, and Myer played them both with gusto. Myer played three encores.
PIANIST MYER OFFERS A RARE TREAT,
Those who were in the audience for the Artist Series solo recital with pianist Spencer Myer Sunday evening -- and those who have or who will purchase a ticket to tonight's performance -- can consider themselves lucky. Myer is a masterful artist who can thrill even the most jaded listener, which he did so thoroughly in his first Sarasota appearance.
Despite the high impact of his performance, Myer has a gentle and cool presence, not standoffish, but more along the lines of modest and emotionally efficient.
Opening with G.F. Handel's Suite No. 2 in F major, HWV 427, Myer revealed a perfectly Baroque sensibility in style and ornamentation. We were quickly reminded that Handel's charm, though eclipsed by his contemporary J.S. Bach, well deserved the admiration he received in his own life.
The Artist Series has just begun to augment the experience of piano recitals with a full screen projection of the keyboard on stage above the performer. Although I expected this added visual to be at best superfluous, I was pleasantly impressed with how much more engaged I was with the technical aspects of his performance.
From this unique vantage point, one could easily see, and be amazed by, Myer's efficient finger work. And this was all the more fascinating as this economy of movement never once translated into economy of emotion and impact. This was made very evident in his spellbinding performance of Leos Janacek's sonata "From the Street," inspired by the death of a citizen during a Prague protest. Myer's use of the pedal and silence to emphasize the short and seemingly broken statements in the second movement, titled "Death," had us sitting on the edge of our seats.
Even Beethoven's overly familiar "Moonlight" Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 felt like a fresh breeze in Myer's hands. The same could be said of the four vocally melodic Impromptus by Franz Schubert considering that Myer has a great love for collaborative work with singers.
What was most striking about this recital program was the extreme breadth of style tackled by the soloist. Myer managed the delicacy and relative control of the Handel Suite, ventured into modernism with Janacek and back again to early Romanticism with Beethoven and Schubert, doing so with a firm scholarly basis for his expressive fluency.
With two selections from Enrique Granados' Goyescas, an 11-part suite for piano based on paintings by Francisco Goya, Myer dove into a much larger Romantic sound with a splash of Spanish flair. The music is big with bold operatic gestures ranging from tempestuous and melancholy to flush with love and fulfillment. The hazard here was getting emotionally lost in these two movements of "Los Requiebros" ("Flirtations") and "El Amor y La Muerte" ("Love and Death").
In its enthusiasm, the audience begged for encore after encore, and Myer obliged us with three -- Debussy's "Le Poisson D'Or" ("The Goldfish"), a Chopin Waltz in A-flat, Op. 42, and finally an Earl Wild transcription of Gershwin's "Embraceable You."
As the high-level piano recital regrettably recedes somewhat in American concert life, it is comforting to know pianists still know how to put together smart programmes. Many have moved to disc, and this album is best understood as a recital disc, assembled with both the performer's strengths and intriguing connections in mind. American pianist Spencer Myer has compiled a programme with variations as the theme, seen through a disparate range of composers. Juilliard and Oberlin-trained, Myer recorded this disc as the American Pianists Association 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow.
An excellent choice opens the "concert": Variations on L'homme Armé by Ellis Kohs. This remains one of the most tasteful and telling incorporations of the famous early Renaissance song that inspired multiple Masses. The American composer wrote his variations in 1946-47, and the pleasant counterpoint at the onset turns first to an almost romantic view of war until it becomes ugly and driving. But, with warm tone, Myer treats the halting last variation as a hymn of thanksgiving to war's end rather than depression over its ravages.
A work that can be stiff and severe, and was certainly viewed as such when it premiered in the early '30s, Copland's Piano Variations develop organically in the pianist's hands. In early variations the high register is a ghostly echo - a fantastic contrast to the percussive jazz-like chords that follow. It is primarily through dynamic shifts but also trough varied attack (and some subtle rubato) that Myer breathes more life into this piece than I have heard before. It is far less angular even in the later, virtuoso variations, with Myer simply treating the work with the typical musicality one would offer to Liszt or Schumann. The same approach is obvious for Busoni's Ten Variations on a Prelude by Cbopin. The prelude in question is the funereal Op 28 No. 20, but this set from 1922 is actually Buoni's reworking of earlier variations on the Prelude in 1885. Busoni reworked them to cut down on the excess of the first set, and Myer honours that with crisp and agile playing.
From here the disc veers from its main theme, but Debussy's Prdludes Book 2, are at least variations of images and concepts. Myer has a delicate touch with fingers and feet, and clearly has a feel for the pacing inherent in these short works. But listening to this album straight though, this final section is a bit of a let-down. 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.
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 1905 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. 24 in F Sharp Major," Op. 78, written in 1809.
Following that were Igor Stravinsky's "Four Etudes," Op. 7, written in 1908 when Stravinsky was only 26 and had not yet found his distinctive voice. 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. S. Bach's "Cantata," BWV 208, written in 1713 as a birthday celebration for Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels.
Palm Beach Daily News
Over the years, the Young Artists Series has brought some serious talent to the Rinker Playhouse. 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. 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. He started with Ludwig van Beethoven's "Sonata in F-sharp Major, Op. 78." Written after the fiery "Appassionata", the work is said to have been one of the composer's favorites. 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. 38 #1" by Nikolai Medtner. 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. 7" by Igor Stravinsky, fared a little better and not because they were of better quality, but because they allowed the audience to hear the pianist's virtuoso abilities in full. 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.
He obliged a deserving standing ovation with encores featuring transcriptions of "The Flight of the Bumble-Bee" by Rimsky-Korsakov, "Fascinating Rhythm" by George Gershwin, and "Sheep May Safely Graze" by J.S. Bach, thrilling the audience and thus ending an evening of pure musicianship.
Spencer Myer gave a gloriously expressive take on the Gershwin [Concerto in F].
In Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, Myer was the epitome of assurance and order. 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. 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. The unbridled joy Myer invests in his music-making also was evident in Albéniz's Iberia Book II, which had sensuousness, fragrance and something too often lacking on today's musical scene: charm. He delved into the 20th century with Samuel Barber's Sonata in E-flat minor, Op. 26, whose morose lyricism and hallucinatory waltz lead to a brash, tangled fugue. 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. 9 was captivating: poised and well-contoured, responsive to every nuance. 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. 4 (for which he again was awarded the best performance of a concerto) with glowing grace via glistening fingertip delicacy.
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. 26, the artist extracted astounding fortissimos in all registers and stark bone-rattling arpeggios assailing the listener with huge dramatic conviction. The culminating four-part Fugue was accomplished in lucid power.
The climax of Spencer Myer's art was worthily invested in the collage of miniatures in Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6. Here rhythmic intricacies and melodic meditation were succinctly realized, highlighted by subtle pauses amidst explosive bravura chordal rhythmic figures.
Spencer Myer, the pianist who played Johannes Brahms' Concerto No. 1, Op. 15, in D Minor, was a top-notch artist who collaborated extremely well with the orchestra in this monumental composition. Myer displayed an intense lyricism, beautifully executed. His command of the music was flawless.
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 2004 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.
Myer delivered mature, polished artistry.
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. He appears to have natural inclinations for the music of Debussy; in Images, Books I & II, Myer captured the fleeting atmospheres in seamless lines, savoring inner voices while also emphasizing the composer's magical textures. The score of Scriabin's Sonata No. 2 found a champion in Myer, whose romantic soul generously delineated the work's special virtues.
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. 1. It had Myer in resourceful form, giving a surprising variety of touch and power to hold the interest. Textures were crystalline. Concerto No. 2 was marked by the same ingratiating tone. In the Concerto No. 3, Myer's elegant phrasing and a certain quality of understatement never degenerated into indifference. 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. 4 in a magical way symptomatic of his performance throughout, which had a youthful suppleness which was most beguiling. 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. 5 with panache and exhilarating fleetness. 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.
Myer is more than a pianist. He is an artist.
Mr. 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.
Last Wednesday I was again in those elegant environs [of Preston Bradley Hall for the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts], again with a near-packed house, to hear the young pianist Spencer Myer.
He's long on talent and short on distracting theatrics, so he straightaway made a great impression. He opened with an arrangement by Sgambati of "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" from Gluck's "Orfeo". 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". "Noctuelles" (Night Moths) was dizzy and fidgety while "Une barque sur l'ocean" (A Boat on the Ocean) was a virtuosic miniature that threatened to make you seasick. 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.
Spencer Myer offered delectable playing of Ravel.
I have to tell you to watch for Spencer Myer. Lately there haven't been many Americans who stirred me as he did.
For worldwide bookings excluding Europe and South AfricaThomas F. Parker
382 Central Park West #9G
New York, NY 10025
fax (212) 864-8189
For bookings in South AfricaHANNIE HEFER PROMOTIONS
PO Box 678, Fontainebleau, Gauteng Province, 2032
tel: +27 11 793 2334
Piano Sonata No. 1 (1990) - 1st mvmt
Recorded in Fort Worth, 2009
Piano Sonata No. 1 (1990) - 2nd mvmt
Recorded in Fort Worth, 2009
Cloches à travers les feuilles
from Images, Book II
Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut
from Images, Book II
Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses
from Preludes, Book II
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Sonata in D Minor, Op. 31 #2 ("Tempest")
I - Largo - Allegro
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Sonata in F# Major, Op. 78 - 1st Movement
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Sonata in F# Major, Op. 78 - 2nd Movement
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Piano Concerto #9 in E flat Major, K271
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Piano Concerto #9 in E flat Major, K271
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Piano Concerto #9 in E flat Major, K271
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Piano Concerto #9 in E flat Major, K271
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Piano Concerto #9 in E flat Major, K271