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Pianist Spencer Myer prepares a Spanish-flavored, largely satisfying meal

By Robert Battey,

Pianist Spencer Myer gave a thoughtful, satisfying recital Sunday at the Phillips Collection. This youngish American artist has amassed a varied career of solo engagements, chamber music and lieder accompaniment, a healthy diversity that guards against the it’s-all-about-me attitude one sees in many pianists.

Myer did not provide much of a cross-section with which to make a full assessment of his artistic qualities. The theme, I suppose, was Spain; the program consisted of the first book of Debussy’s Preludes (two of which had Spanish-flavored sections), the fourth book of Albeniz’s “Iberia,” and Moszkowski’s “Caprice espagnol.” But the Debussy and the Albeniz were written in the same year, both essays on using the instrument to depict imaginative external images. All well and good, with Myer displaying intelligent musicianship and excellent keyboard command. He gives the impression of playing music, not the piano. But a bit more variety would have made for a more satisfying meal.

In the Debussy, Myer carefully graded his tone — in “Des pas sur la neige” and “La fille aux cheveux de lin,” he kept the soft pedal down virtually throughout. The sonorous climax of “La cathedrale engloutie” was richly intoned, middle voices predominating. Although the fingerwork was not perfectly even in “Le vent dans la plaine,” the technical thunderbolts of “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” were impressive indeed.

In the Albeniz, there were a few passages that sounded stressed, but overall the concentration and keyboard imagination were exemplary. The guitars and castanets in Moszkowski’s main subject were effectively drawn, but the order of the program (moving from the musically strongest works to the weakest) somewhat diluted full appreciation of this trifle. A Gershwin encore was jarring but played with panache.

Battey is a freelance writer.

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