The program for the August 19 Carswell Concert Hall recital, listed in full in CVNC's calendar, commanded attention, in part because it appeared to be the product of an accomplished and mature master, so those who'd seen it in advance may have gasped when the artist came onto the platform. His attire was, well, unexpected - a long-sleeve blue shirt, green vest, brown belt, black trousers, brown shoes.... There were no Jodphur boots or riding britches, but the young man, with no readily apparent excess poundage, otherwise resembled for all the world a jockey, primed for a race. The care he gave his performances reflected a high level of athletic ability, too. And he played with extraordinary skill - skill that one hardly expected from such a young person.
When the program was over, we learned that Clinton Cormany was born in Kentucky, so that riding business may not have been too far-fetched. He grew up in Orlando, did his undergraduate work at Stetson, and took his advanced degrees at Indiana and the Royal Academy of Music. He's based in London now, but his folks live in Raleigh. Here's hoping he develops periodic homesickness and decides to play again on every trip!
The program began with a wonderfully flowing reading of Godowsky's transcription of the Andante movement from Bach's Second Violin Sonata, S.1003 (which the transcriber called "Aria"). The artist then introduced and translated the titles of six Debussy preludes (two from Book I and four from Book II), in which he demonstrated his secure command of French impressionistic music, delivering secure, charming, delightful, and invariably impressive interpretations - and showing his prowess with a "new" keyboard, too, by making Meredith's sometimes balky Yamaha sound far better than it usually does. The spoken introduction was helpful since the printed program contained no notes on the music.
Michael Nyman's "Elisabeth gets her way" brought the first half of the program to a close, and the intermission proved welcome, given the nervous-making, insistent music. It's clear that she got not only her way but the whole house, too - vacated - after this motoric toccata-like and multi-section piece, which Cormany tossed off like child's play.
That he can stand comparison with established masters many times his age was even clearer in a group of Liszt pieces - "Sposalizio," S.161/1 (from Years of Pilgrimage, Year II), the grim and often foreboding "Nuages gris," S.199, and the tenth Transcendental Etude, S.139/10. (Only in the last number did the Yamaha show its customary colors, in the form of an unyielding and brittle top.) The performances were splendid and brought to mind readings by some hallowed names....
The concert ended with Schubert's comparatively brief Sonata in A, D.664. The order of the program was unusual, with the "new" piece in the center; and aside from a slight miscalculation in the first movement of the Sonata (the passage was flawlessly realized in the repeat), there was nothing customary in Cormany's playing of the utterly disarming final offering. The substantial audience responded enthusiastically, recalling the artist several times before he joined them at the post-concert reception. Advice to readers: hear this pianist the next time he's here! He may not grow up to be a jockey, but he's a pianistic thoroughbred, formed from championship stock.