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Recital Review Print

Richard Reid: Storming the Barricades at the Chopin Festival

February 26, 2010 - Raleigh, NC:

The Triangle’s own Richard Reid, whose feet are firmly planted in the artistic world, thanks to his extensive training (with, among others, Walter Hautzig), and in what some would call the real world, wherein he’s made a comparably distinguished high-tech career as a software engineer. He often graces area stages, and it was good to hear him in a full program at Meredith College as the school’s outstanding Chopin Festival drew toward its conclusion. The concert was presented in the Carswell Concert Hall, one of the region’s livelier venues; his often dramatic and sometimes stormy playing seemed at times overly large, making one think that this program would have fared better in Jones Auditorium.

The first half consisted of two scherzos (in E, Op. 54, and in C-Sharp minor, Op. 39) and two ballades (in A-flat, Op. 47, and in F minor, Op. 52). Reid took off like a house afire in the E Major Scherzo, playing with strength and power that demonstrated his technical prowess but that concurrently made this listener wonder if he’d read contemporaneous reports of Chopin’s far more soft-spoken performance style. Things abated in the Op. 47 Ballade, where Reid’s artistry and lyricism were far more evident. The C-Sharp minor Scherzo received a haunting reading, and the F minor Ballade was likewise remarkably realized – in places, it sounded a good bit like late Liszt.

There were shorter pieces after the intermission – four études (in G-flat, Op. 10/5, in E-flat minor, Op. 10/6, in E minor, Op. 25/5, and in A minor, Op. 25/11), two waltzes (in A minor, Op. 34/2, and in A-flat, Op. 42), a nocturne (in D-flat, Op. 27/2) and, in one of festival’s few repeats, the “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53, which, in the hands of Karen Allred, had served as the grand finale of the opening concert on February 22.

The études (studies) are amazing compositions; the notion that “teaching pieces” could be rewarding to listeners, too, was radically new when Chopin wrote these things. They seem to separate sheep from goats in the piano-playing community, due to their difficulty, so here’s a tip of the hat to Reid (although Godowsky made them even more difficult, in a series of studies on these Chopin studies…). His performances of the two waltzes were admirable, too, although the second one was, like that opening Scherzo, far too loud for the space. There was relief in the D-Flat Nocturne, in which Reid’s playing was exquisite. This “Heroic” Polonaise was different from Allred’s more poetic and controlled reading four nights earlier but Reid’s interpretation was certainly valid, and his bravura reading elicited a big response from the crowd.

There were two encores – the virtually unknown A-Flat Major Tarantelle (1841), which is precisely what its title implies, and Granados’ "Quejas, o, La maja y el ruisenor" ("The Maiden and the Nightingale”), from Goyescas, which was memorably realized..

This festival ends with a February 27 program of (mostly) Chopin by Meredith students. It starts at 7:00 p.m. in Carswell. Enjoy!