Friday, January 25, 2013

Robert Cassidy plays Debussy, Mozart, and Noon.
Albany Records, 2012. Robert Cassidy:

This recording represents Cassidy’s first solo commercial studio album, however, he is no stranger to classical listeners in Northeast Ohio or North America.  Robert Cassidy holds Doctor of Arts degree in Piano Chamber Music and Accompanying/ Piano Performance from Ball State University, where he studied with Robert Palmer, and his undergraduate work resulted in Bachelors and Masters degrees in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Solomon Mikowsky, Constance Keene, and Marc Silverman.  Dr. Cassidy has performed in the US and Canada, live and on radio, alone and with others including the Almeda Trio and The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.  He currently lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Cassidy’s rendition of Debussy’s Préludes, Book I, is nothing short of moving.  I will out myself as a huge fan of Debussy in general, but Cassidy manages to make these works shine.  Debussy, while not the only track on the album, takes up the lion’s share of the time (43 out of 62 minutes), and covers "Danseuses de Delphes," "Voiles," "Le vent dans la plaine," "‘Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir,’" "Les collines d'Anacapri," "Des pas sur la neige," "Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest," "La fille aux cheveux de lin," "La sérénade interrompue," "La cathédrale engloutie," "La danse de Puck," and "Minstrels," each as individual tracks.  This is a nice way to chunk such a large piece, and is consistent with the way the pieces were originally written, although they’re typically played as sets of three or four in my experience.  Hearing the entire book in its entirety was special, and Dr. Cassidy performed well through all of it.  The dynamics cover a wide range, and do take a bit of adjusting, but if you’re at home, once you find a sweet spot, the time spent is worth it to avoid being blown away by the louder portions or struggling to hear the softest.  Skip the iPod with ear buds or laptop speakers for this one, and listen someplace with good sound for the most enjoyment.  Debussy’s penchant for having the left and right hands doing drastically different things is no challenge for Cassidy, and not once could I hear him trip up.  At the same time, he played with the emotion and feeling that this selection requires.

Mozart’s "Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475" has far less dynamic range, but is an enjoyable rendition also.  The piece is probably something that you’ve heard before, if you like piano, but it’s not one of Mozart’s most famous pieces, so there are fewer expectations than other Mozart selections would have.  This combination of familiarity and newness, along with the similar feel, make it a nice accompaniment to Debussy’s work.  Noon’s "Elegy Variations," the ending and shortest piece, however, is quite a departure from the rest of the album.  The beginning is most noticeable as a break from what has happened before it, although movements within the work do hearken back to earlier tracks as well.  Those fleeting glimpses interspersed with almost harsh sounds have a vaguely disconcerting effect that leaves the listener wanting to seek out more of Noon’s work, or at least it did for me.  Cassidy again plays well through both of these final tracks, and is someone whom I’ll be looking for in the Northeast Ohio and radio music scenes, that much is for sure.  As an added bonus, this album has a solid appeal across ages, kept my first-grader’s attention through most of it, and has gotten him more interested in how to make similar sounds on his own.  We’re still deciding if his new-found desire to compose on the piano at home is such a good thing, though- there’s a fine line between chromatically dissonant and clanging that the first-grader has yet to successfully navigate.

Personnel: Robert Cassidy (piano)

Tracks: Claude Debussy’s Préludes, Livre I; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Fantasia in C Minor, K.475; David Noon’s Elegy Variations, Op. 97.

Lisa Regula Meyer

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