by Jarrett Hoffman
Over the years, performances by pianist Spencer Myer with the Miami String Quartet at the Kent Blossom Music Festival have happened so regularly that you could almost set your watch to them. But 2020 derailed that, and in 2021 schedules didn’t line up to make it happen either.
Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in g will be the focus when Myer and the Miami get this tradition going again on Tuesday, July 19 at 7:30 pm at Kent State University’s Ludwig Recital Hall. Of course, the Quartet will be minus one fiddle for that piece, but not to worry: violinists Benny Kim and Cathy Meng Robinson, violist Scott Lee, and cellist Keith Robinson will all come together in string quartets by Joseph Haydn (Op. 77, No. 1) and Samuel Barber (Op. 11). Tickets are available here.
Myer has played Fauré’s First Piano Quartet before, but the g-minor — which he described as grittier and with more gravitas — is new to him. And what a warm welcome it gives to any pianist: a series of quick 32nd-note gestures right at the top, repeated again and again, and again.
“Oh, that’s really hard,” Myer said. “Fauré’s piano music is amazing, and once you really get on top of it, it’s so satisfying to play. But in general it’s quite awkward. And that oscillating stuff at the beginning — on any instrument really, but especially on the piano, it’s so easy to get tense with repetitive motion that stays in one place.”
There is a strange quality to much of the harmony throughout the piece, Myer noted. “It’s not going to really jar the ear of the audience — nothing really off the beaten path. But in terms of the other music of Fauré that I know — of course I’ve played the Violin Sonata a lot, and many of the songs — this piano quartet is a little bit more harmonically out there.”
Even when harmonies are more traditional in Fauré’s music, they can still surprise you, which makes his music difficult to sight-read. “I’m a pretty good sight-reader, but I can’t just read through it. I have to spend a lot of time carefully going through the notes because the harmonies never quite go where you expect.”
Speaking of not going where you expect, although Myer calls New York City his home, his time there was squeezed over the past year as he traveled back and forth to his teaching post at the Longy School of Music in Massachusetts, and to Indiana University, where he was doing a sabbatical replacement.
“I was only in New York a couple of random nights a week,” Myer said. “It was totally insane, but it all worked out.” Starting this fall, he will be full-time at Indiana. “I’m pinching myself,” he said. “I’m so excited about it.” He’s signed a lease in Bloomington and will be going furniture shopping — but don’t expect him to leave NYC. “I’m never selling this place, so I’ll be coming back to New York a lot.”
One of Myer’s frequent trips on his calendar over the past twenty years has been to South Africa, dating back to a recital and orchestral tour of the country in 2005, which was followed by return engagements every couple of years up until 2018. Unfortunately, scheduling that trip might be difficult going forward.
“With this new job, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to carve out a month of my life,” he said. “For a trip like that, you need to plan a lot of concerts and go for a while. But I’m dying to go overseas again — back to Europe, Asia. I mean, internationally there are lots of places where classical music is so in the water — where they just appreciate it so much.”
Of course, there is a trip to North Ridgeville in his very near future. That’s where his parents live, and where he always stays when he comes for Kent Blossom. “They live right by the turnpike, so it’s very easy to get up to Kent. It’s always great to be back in the home state, of course. And I’ve really missed Kent a lot — it’s so good to get back.”
Published on ClevelandClassical.com July 13, 2022.
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