An October 18 recital by Richard Reid in Carswell Hall at Meredith College revealed to those in attendance another long-hidden Triangle master. Reid is a Juilliard-trained pianist who studied with Beveridge Webster and Walter Hautzig and who, having decided to abandon a solo performance career, lives in Cary and has been fooling around as a computer software engineer in RTP for lo these many years. This was his first recital in fifteen years and thus a re-début of sorts. We hope it is the first of many. He has played a few times in the area before--in Carswell, even--but not in a major recital setting.
And a major recital it was. He covered several piano styles and several European nations in this particularly well designed program that could serve as a model for a recital CD. It opened with the Italian Concerto, S.971, by Johann Sebastian Bach. This was followed after a brief exit from the stage by the Fantasia in C, Op. 17, by Robert Schumann. After intermission, Reid played in succession, without leaving the stage, the Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49 by Frédéric Chopin, the "Coloquoi en la Reja" (Love Duet, from Goyescas ) by Enrique Granados, and the Etudes-tableaux in B minor and E-flat minor, Op. 39, Nos. 4 and 5, by Sergei Rachmaninoff. After another brief sortie, he concluded with the Schulz-Evler (misspelled in the program) transcription of "On the Beautiful Blue Danube" of Johann Strauss, Jr. (whose full title is "Arabesques on."). I was particularly pleased to see this included. Transcriptions seem to be coming back into style, after a somewhat long neglect, and the good ones are always enjoyable. As an encore, he played a Rachmaninoff Etude. The major styles not touched upon were Classical, the Scandinavians, and Impressionism (though he has some Debussy on one of his CDs), nor were there any works from Central European composers with their characteristic dance rhythms.
This was a bravura program, calling for lots of forte and fortissimo, and they were delivered with incredible fullness. Yet when he wanted to, Reid could also deliver lyricism and delicate piano and pianissimo. This music simply didn't call for them all that often, and I personally longed for a bit more of them. A flyer, available at the door but missed by this writer until after the recital, has a photo on the front and the short bio on the back also included in the program. It includes as well three critical quotes: "poetry as well as thunderous, full-blooded sonority," from London's Daily Telegraph ; "technical facility and musical sensibility," from the New York Times ; and "His limpid, poised playing was impressive," from The New Yorker . Presumably these date from his earlier recitals, but curiously, I had many of these adjectives in my head to describe this one before I had read them. This was indeed a bravura performance, played entirely from memory. He has not lost his touch in the intervening years. His fingers flew like lightning dancing over the keys, seemingly itching to strike yet not hitting any wrong notes that this listener could detect. He also frequently used cross-hand fingering techniques, a signature of Hautzig's teaching, I'm told.
Reid is a pianist who obviously has definite ideas about the music he chooses to play, and he interprets that music for the listener in terms of those ideas. Numerous times during the evening, I could not resist making a connection between Richard Reid and Glenn Gould, suggested immediately to my mind by the way he approached the work with which he opened the proceedings. It was not a standard, straightforward reading of the Italian Concerto that he served up, but it was a beautiful reading that did not betray the music either. His powerful interpretation of the Schumann, which was undoubtedly the most impressive display of the evening, was likewise impressive. Numerous were the interpretations that differed from the run of the mill, and they were revealing and pleasing to hear. He played the rests carefully, and they became pregnant pauses as the audience impatiently awaited the next attack. The Chopin was perhaps a bit louder and less lyrical than I imagine the composer would have played it himself, but it could not be said to have been badly interpreted. The Rachmaninoff also seemed a bit too loud, but the pieces were formidably executed. Some of this impression of overpower is no doubt the function of the "live" hall. I also kept thinking throughout how much I would have preferred to hear the performance on a nice-sounding Steinway, such as the one at the NC Museum of Art, rather than on Meredith's Yamaha, which has always seemed too bright and shrill, even in the upper register.
Also like Gould, Reid is a pianist who "gets into the music." He was not caught humming along, but his lips did move visibly and his facial expression changed continuously in relation to his concentration on the way the music spoke to him. He came onto the stage in a very business-like manner, sat down and simply began immediately to play, making no fuss whatsoever. As he played, however, his upper body began to move naturally back and forth, forward and back, with the ebb and flow of the music, though by no means in a showy, flamboyant manner. The listener could readily see the degree to which he was sincerely feeling the music he was playing and formulating the sound he was producing. This was a recital in what we might imagine to have been the legendary style and tradition of Franz Liszt and Ferrucio Busoni - competent, solid, professional, and played with conviction. Good program notes were provided, elucidating particularly well the composers and the pieces selected.
This is a talent to be reckoned with, and we need to hear and see it displayed more frequently now that Reid has returned to his first calling. He also needs to be heard by more music lovers. He played to an enthusiastic, but less than half-full house; he deserves an overflowing one!