Cleveland native Spencer Myer strode very purposefully to the piano (he's tall, so he was there very quickly), and 50 minutes later he made a believer out of me. I was skeptical initially during his pleasant account of one of Beethoven's less substantial piano sonatas (Op. 78 in F-sharp minor), but his sound grew on me. He seems utterly incapable of making an ugly sound on the piano. His notes were shimmering and iridescent as he took on Chopin's Barcarolle and five Debussy preludes. These were delightful, and some of his passagework on Debussy's "Feux d'artifice" ("Fireworks") was simply incredible.
It took some courage for him to end his program with Carl Vine's First Piano Sonata instead of a more traditional showpiece, but he made a cohesive and convincing case that this 1990 work is a very good piece of music indeed. This piece required a bit more spikiness of him than the rest of his program did, and he proved up to it. He'll have to ratchet it up a notch if he makes it to the semis, because he's scheduled to play Copland's Piano Variations. All in all, this was a very pretty program, and initially I thought that he should have mixed it up a bit more. But then again, I can see the strategy behind establishing your identity and playing to your strengths. Even if he proves incapable of doing something else, he's always a pleasure to hear. There are worse things in the world to be.