Adam Herd is a young prize-winning pianist from Coffs Harbour. Don’t be misled by the “country-and-western” cover shot, or the bio that stresses his interest in sport and surfing: Herd may be a regular guy but he is also a sensitive and accomplished musician.
His program is well chosen. Anatoly Liadov was a late 19th-century Russian composer, essentially a miniaturist. His three short pieces (Prelude Op 11, No 1, Barcarolle Op 44, and Novelette Op 20) are pretty but insubstantial; the orchestra was Liadov’s domain. Nonetheless, he was a precursor to Rachmaninov, whose rarely played Variations on a Theme of Chopin follow.
The variations are on Chopin’s Prelude Op 28, No 20, a solemn chorale. Solemnity permeates the first ten minutes of this long work, poorly received at its premiere. The composer subsequently cut the 10th and 12th variations and the coda, and Herd plays the shorter version. Although the piece takes a while to get started, it eventually offers the performer opportunities to be fleet, tender, and vigorous. Herd meets these challenges with style and an innate feeling for rubato.
Australian composer Carl Vine’s Third Piano Sonata was composed in 2007. In four linked movements, it progresses from a mysterious opening through a tough jazz-inflected rondo and a set of free variations to close with a dazzling presto. Vine leans more towards a post-Romantic style here than in his earlier sonatas, which suits Herd’s sensibilities. The pianist is masterful in this premiere recording.
Piazzolla’s early Suite for Piano Op 2 completes the recital. Herd lived for a year in Argentina and captures the melancholy Latin soul of Piazzolla’s music. Clearly the surfer from Coffs is one to watch. Excellent sound.