What's Playing / Arden Anderson-Broecking
Alex Beyer, who is 18 years old, and a recent high school graduate, is an astonishing talented pianist already. I was familiar with his playing, having heard him earlier. He is a personable, charming and unaffected young man, who is mature for his years and takes his music seriously. His comments about the music he was to play were knowledgeable and instructive, but at the same time, he showed a lighthearted joy in what he going to offer us, and so he did.
At his recital at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan on July 31, Beyer began with a sparkling performance of the charming, florid "Sunshine" etude by Fredric Chopin, a complement to the lovely evening on which this concert took place. His formal program began with Ludwig van Beethoven's formidable Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Opus 110, the next to last of Beethoven's sonata, a lovely complex piece that could only be followed by Opus 111, probably one of the most sophisticated piano sonatas ever conceived. Beyer brought out the nuances in this piece, including some early use of dissonance. Each of the sections fed into one another, and though the dynamic contrasts were sometimes abrupt, one must bear in mind that Beethoven's hearing already was deeply affected. At the same time, he demanded lyrical playing and the deliberate tying together of fragments of melody that always came together, especially in the early Moderato and Allegro. The final section was an amazing Fugue, its theme stated and later completely reversed. This was intricate writing, twisting and turning, but finally coming home. This is not an easy piece, by any stretch of a musical imagination. Beyer's technically skillful and warm playing opened this piece up to the listener in many ways.
Highly romantic pieces, and programmatic, the first one was an impression of a predatory hawk. Second on the program were five of Sergei Rachmanioff's "Etudes Tableaux," a series of musical picture. These are intrinsically Russian, complex and demanding of the pianist. The first is the composer's depiction of a predatory hawk. The second was a tranquil trip through many keys, and the third was a wonderful musically literal story of "Little Red Riding Hood." The fourth contained a sense of anguish, and the sound of deep bells. The final one was an angry, march-like piece. Rachmaninoff left his beloved Russia at the time of the revolution, and this music lets you know exactly how he felt. Beyer's comprehension of the drama of these pieces enhanced his skilled playing. He then gave us "Ondine" from Ravel's "Gaspard de la Nuit," a piece about the unrequited love of a water sprite for a human man. Her excitement and despair were portrayed in this demanding piece, which Beyer played with passion as well as subtlety. The final piece was a jazzy, bluesy romp by Nikolai Kapustin, his Variations, Opus 41, the best possible choice to end an evening of extraordinary pianism by a very promising young artist.
Arden Anderson-Broecking is a theater and music critic residing in Fairfield County.