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RECITAL REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Spencer Myer, piano.

Pianist Spencer Meyer July 22 in Preston Hall

MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL SPOTLIGHTS MOZART TO BALCOM

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache.

Exploring the Festival’s Mozart theme, Mr. Myer played the G Major Sonata, K. 283, with grace, balanced scales and seamless right-hand trills. The following Adagio and robustPresto unfolded with
silky grace and speed but without compelling inner voices or unique touches.

Schumann’s C Major Fantasia, Op. 17, closed the first half, the composer’s greatest large-scale work. In the opening movement the pianist brought extremes of dynamic range and declarative themes in the right hand to the emotional score that only resolves into C Major in the final 25 measures. The tempo taken in the famous march movement was fast, tempered by judicious pedaling and an occasional solo note held in the treble to effect. The contrary motion skips that bedevil so many pianists didn’t trouble Mr. Myer.

The finale (Langsam) was played with a poetically flowing stream of sound, punctuated by two big climaxes. The final three pianissimo chords were captivating. A standing ovation ensued.

Ravel’s F-Sharp Major Sonatine began the second half and was given a polished interpretation in Modéré with the most beguiling tone color of the afternoon, especially when the artist played softly. The Animé had a shimmering quality with subtle rubato and deft pedaling. The performance had lots of charm.

In his remarks to the audience Mr. Myer noted that Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, was a complex tone poem pointing the way to the Polish composer’s last works. His playing underscored the rhythmic characteristics of the dance form while the music opened into novel (for 1846) harmonies and an improvisatory and meditative middle section. There was an extended pause at the end before the final loud chord.

Three of William Balcom’s popular piano rags closed the program in grand style, and the artist seemed to enjoy the excitement caused by the sprightly “Old Adam” two step and the “Graceful Ghost.” The rag fantasy “Serpent’s Kiss” was the most complex and taxing work of the three, and the audience (me too) loved the gymnastic finger technique Mr. Myer applied to “Kiss.”

One encore was offered, Earl Wild’s variations on Gershwin’s 1930 hit from “Girl Crazy,” I got Rhythm. The pianist conquered the difficult close cross-hand figurations with ease and flair.