The Cape Town Concert Series was founded in 1955 and has held its recitals in the Baxter Concert Hall since 1977. One of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious chamber music organisations, it has over the decades provided a platform for many of South Africa’s finest talents, as well as notable international artists.
In 2010 the Cape Town Concert Series brought us one of the most outstanding pianists of his generation, the acclaimed Spencer Myer. He shared with us his love for Spanish music, and filled the Baxter Concert Hall with such joy that it was a cause of no little excitement to see his name in the line up again this year, fresh from his solo debut at the one of the world’s most distinguished recital venues, Wigmore Hall inLondon.
Myer opted to play the same recital programme that he had performed at Wigmore Hall; a programme extremely demanding for even the finest of pianists, with a variety of works from different styles and periods, particularly Myers’ favourite: French Impressionist and Spanish music.
It is a rare privilege to hear complete collections of works at one recital and Myer ambitiously included not one but three collections in his programme: The whole of Debussy’s Book I 12 Préludes, the three Sonnet movements from Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage: Deuxième Année: Italia, and Iberia Book IV (Málaga, Jerez and Eritaňa) from the Spanish pianist and composer Isaac Albéniz.
But first he began with Haydn’s Sonata in G major Hob.XVI:40 – the perfect appetizer to the monumental works that were to follow. Myer’s playing was light and agile, brilliantly capturing the galant style and humour in Haydn’s music. This work also set the tone for the remainder of the programme: while Myer might have selected a number of dazzling virtuoso pieces, it was clear that he had instead elected to play some of his personal favourites. The recital felt intimate and dear and the audience felt like privileged guests, listening with great admiration.
The Debussy Préludes require maturity, excellent pedal technique and for the pianist to look inward when creating different impressions. Myer’s playing was technically superb, almost improvisatorial in character and the result was breathtakingly beautiful. The audience sat spellbound as the luxurious timbre filled the hall, manipulated at Myer’s whim. It was unfortunate that two members of the audience decided to join us just as Myer played the opening notes of this collection, albeit that the scene they created was somewhat entertaining, it being so unusual for such disturbances to take place at classical music events.
The three Sonnet movements from Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage: Deuxième Année: Italia, and Albéniz’s Iberia Book IV were also outstanding. Myer’s control over the final two notes of the Liszt was remarkable: he did not allow us to move or even breathe until he was ready to let go. He concluded the programme with a Caprice Espagnol Op. 37 from Moszkowski, a delightful Spanish-inspired work by a composer that we hear all too rarely in concert halls.
A jubilant applause from the audience prompted Myer to give us even more. It was hard to imagine that he had any energy left but he showed no sign of flagging as he played Earl Wild’s transcription of ‘The Man I Love’ and Ilych Petri’s arrangement of ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ from Bach. The latter, one of the most beautiful compositions ever created, was a fitting end to a perfect recital.
Andra le Roux-Kemp
Spencer Myer performed a Piano Recital as part of the Cape Town Concert Series at the Baxter Concert Hall, Rondebosch on 19 May 2012.