Spencer Myer, Wigmore Hall, London


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The Independent Culture

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.