Last weekend music lovers came out in record-breaking numbers to attend Chestnut Hill College’s Steinway Artist Concert — an annual tradition featuring the world’s most renowned and acclaimed pianists.
Award-winning pianist Spencer Myer headlined this year’s Steinway Artist Concert, hosted at the College on Feb. 10 in the East Parlor of Saint Joseph Hall. More than 100 people attended the event, breaking attendance records for the annual concert series, which was established in 2012. The series features pianists from around the globe who were chosen to perform exclusively on a Steinway.
Kathleen McCloskey, SSJ, M.M.Ed., an assistant professor of music and chair of the music department at the College, said this year’s concert was special. This was due in large part to Myer, whom she called “gifted.”
“I think the concert was at such a high level of musicality that you entered into the emotions of the composer as interpreted by Spencer Myer,” Sister Kathleen said. “You could really enter into what the composer had in mind with the way Myer played each piece.”
The College is designated as an All-Steinway School, an honor Steinway bestows upon institutions whose piano collection comprises no less than 90 percent of Steinways. Steinway, an award-winning American-German company, is often labelled as one of the “Big Four” piano manufacturers in existence.
Myer — one of only 1,800 Steinway artists — opened the concert with “Estampes,” a three-part composition by French composer Claude Debussy. Each movement, Sister Kathleen said, transported the audience to a different place and time. For example, the first movement, “Pagodes,” evoked the sounds and mental imagery of East Asia; the second, “La soirée dans Grenade,” conveyed the feeling of being in Spain; and the third, “Jardins sous la pluie,” carried away listeners to a garden in France beset by an intense rainstorm.
Sister Kathleen said the skill with which Myer played — “at the caliber of a virtuoso” — made this conveyance possible.
“He played so perfectly, with a flawless technique and the right nuances, that you really felt like you were in those places,” she said.
Myer’s second composition was “Four Scherzi” by Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. Following his performance, the audience greeted Myer with what Sister Kathleen described as “tumultuous applause.” Hearing the standing ovation, Myer returned to the piano to perform an encore. He played German composer Johannes Brahms’ “Intermezzo, Opus 117, No. 1,” and afterward, he received his second standing ovation of the evening.
As an in-demand musician, Myer has performed as a soloist for numerous orchestras around the world, including the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, The Cleveland Orchestra and Beijing’s China National Symphony Orchestra. He is also the recipient of numerous international awards, having won first prize in the 2004 UNISA International Piano Competition in South Africa and the gold medal from the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition.
What made this year’s concert unforgettable was Myer’s “exceptionally gracious manner,” Sister Kathleen said.
“One thing that was extremely attractive about Myer was his personality,” she said. “He was so outgoing, so positive and so friendly, and he just received everything so pleasantly. He was very down-to-earth and incredibly humble, and that goes a long way.”
Myer even commented to Sister Kathleen about the specific Steinway that he played at the concert, calling it “a gorgeous piano.”
As to what she believes the College can do in the future to rival the success of this year’s event, Sister Kathleen said it can continue spreading the word about the wonderful experience that is the Steinway Artist Concert Series.
“It’s a gift to be able to relax and enjoy music and its beauty,” she said. “It’s one of the great joys in life.”
- Kevin Dicciani