BWW Interviews: Spencer Myer, Pianist Appears with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, 5/3
On Saturday May 3rd at 8PM and Sunday May 4th at 3PM, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony is featuring Spencer Myer, Gold Medalist of the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition as soloist in Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. We sat down with Spencer to find out more about this brilliant pianist in advance of his concerts with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony.
ClassicalWorld: What are the biggest influences on your musicianship and performance approach?
SM: I had the incredible fortune of studying with two students of the great Leon Fleisher: during my undergraduate at Oberlin with Peter Takacs, and during my graduate studies at Juilliard with Julian Martin. Through two very different approaches, I absorbed the same ideals of clear structure, shape/direction of phrases, and attention to the score. So while I appreciate hearing a very individual voice, I have gained -- through the indirect influence of Leon Fleisher, one of the great Brahms Concerti interpreters -- a desire to always hear one's individual voice withinthe parameters of style, taste, and composers' intent. I listen for sincerity, and try to bring that to my playing. Sincerity, to me, comes bringing the composers' wishes to light and placing one's stamp on that product. I don't want people to be listening to Spencer Myer; I want them to be listening to Brahms, which happens to be performed by Spencer Myer.
CW: Please share with us your conception and experience with Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2.
SM: I'm thrilled that this will be my first performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, and thrilled to be sharing this experience with David Bernard and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. It is a work I have known and listened to my entire life, and I have constantly formed and reformed my own interpretation of the piece through hearings of countless performances, live and on record. Having performed the First Brahms Concerto numerous times, I can't help but draw comparisons. I see a more mature energy in the Second Concerto, a grander structure, and a more refined interplay between the piano and orchestra. In studying the piece, I have found a greater demand for constant volume of sound, as compared to the First Concerto which has more moments of dreaminess and color through all its movements. This is not to say there is anything small about the First Concerto, but now having become intimately familiar with the Second, I see why folks deepen their voices when speaking of the SECOND Concerto as opposed to the First. It is grander on every level. The First isgrandiose, with youthful aplomb and drama, and the Second is simply GRAND.
CW: Many people see Brahms as a romantic composer, given that he lived squarley during the so-called Romantic Period, but others, noting his style of composition describe him has a classicist. Where do you fall in this debate?
SM: I most definitely see Brahms as a Romantic composer, albeit a very refined one. While Brahms does have more "square" phrase structure and many other elements of Mozart/Haydn/Beethoven's classicism, it is the range of emotions his music presents that makes him Romantic in my eyes; range of emotions as well as the ability of those emotions to cut immediately through to one's heart. Beethoven certainly explored this world, which is why we credit him with bridging the gap between the Classical and Romantic eras of music. To me, Brahms -- from his beginning to his end -- is firmly where Beethoven was at his end: extremely sophisticated and planned structures, harmonies, rhythms, but with a deeply emotional intent behind them.
CW: You have appeared as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Dayton and Lousiana Philharmonic and the Bozeman, Indianapolis and Knoxville Symphonies. You last appeared with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony and its music director David Bernard in February of 2013 performing Beethoven's Fourth Concerto. The May 3rd and 4th concerts represent your second appearance with this conductor and orchestra. Please share with us your thoughts on this collaboration.
SM: I enjoy every minute of collaborating with David Bernard, because he takes great pains to ensure that the performance is engaging. With the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, nothing is routine. No phrase or harmony change is expected or taken for granted, and their love and enthusiasm for this music is infectious. As there is great interplay in the Brahms Concerto, this collaboration is so refreshing for me, having toiled over the piece for hours and hours and months and months. It is something that I don't always see in orchestras, and it is a true thrill. I could not be more excited about these upcoming concerts.