Barry Snyder Piano Recital
Hale School Music Auditorium
reviewed by Edmund Percy
American pianist Barry Snyder, who has visited Perth on a number of occasions in the past, gave a recital of unusual interest in that it enabled the audience (far too small, surely, for so substantial a music event as this) not only to hear a fine musician in action (Snyder is a former laureate of the Van Cliburn International Music Competition) but also to experience the sound – live – of a new concert grand piano built by the Australian firm of Stuart and son. The instrument Snyder played – a magnificent-looking affair in Huon pine – is not intended for long term use at Hale; it is, in fact, on loan from the manufacturers until. the piano purchased by the school is ready for delivery.
There was much that gave pleasure at this recital, notwithstanding some fumbles in Haydn’s curtain-raising Fantasy in C and, after interval, some disconcertingly inaccurate playing in an account of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
It was in a bracket of mazurkas by Polish master composers Chopin and Szymanowski that Snyder came strongly to the fore, informing his readings of these exquisite miniatures with an understanding of idiom, tone colour and subtle rhythmic give and take that raised the performance to the heights. Chopin’s Ballade No 2 was no less effectively handled, with its gentle 6/8 measures cheek by jowl with huge outbursts of sound that travelled powerfully to the rear of the auditorium. George Crumb’s Dream Images (Love-Death Music), with its generous obeisances to Chopin’s Fantasy-Impromptu, was a fascinating inclusion.
Snyder has a highly serviceable finger technique, able to confidently take almost anything in its stride. Even fiendishly difficult scores hold few fears for him and he steered a commendably controlled way through Liszt’s Paraphrase of Verdi’s Rigoletto with its rather superficial, trademark treble tinklings and hefty-toned bass octaves.
Granados’ piano suite Goyescas is not for timid musicians. Much of the score is out of bounds to any but the most complete of pianists – and it requires a cool nerve, very educated fingers and staying power to bring a sense of musical logic to its often densely-packed note streams. It can all too easily sound drearily turgid. Happily, there was no suggestion of this at all. On the contrary, the performance was informed by a luminous clarity to the performance that made for most satisfying listening.