Adam Neiman’s Piano Recital is a Sonic Jewel Box


Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer OLIVIA QI and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member ANNA MELOMED

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Pianist Adam Neiman is a painter of sound. No note is too brief for him to color, and no piece is too simple to spin vivid images of. At the Seattle Chamber Music Society, Neiman’s program of Ravel and Rachmaninoff miniatures wasn’t monumental, but he brought out their charm. Sensitive and meticulous, he treated the audience to a jewel box of a performance—intimate, quaint, and restorative.

If McCaw or Benaroya Hall is like the Climate Pledge Arena, the Seattle Chamber Music Society is like The Vera Project. It’s smaller and focuses more on educating audiences. The audience members, who are mostly elderly, know each other on a name basis, and I got a nametag at the entrance.

The Dr. Kennan Hollingsworth Living Room is surprisingly small, seating only 60 people or so. There is no elevated stage, but it has warm, resonant acoustics. Pleasantly surprised by its casual vibe, I settled in an armchair in the back. Some of the audience members brought their champagne flutes and wine glasses to their seats, something unheard of in fussier halls. It almost felt like sitting in a Parisian Belle Époque salon, the same kind of place Ravel frequented and performed at. Neiman’s program for the night, which would have sounded insubstantial in a large hall, sounded perfectly charming in the Living Room.

When Neiman stepped onstage, he announced, “I’ll say everything now so I don’t have to talk in between pieces.”

He began by thanking the recently passed donor of the piano he would be playing on, as well as John Holloway, the Executive Director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society. While I am not part of the scene, I am glad I got a glimpse of it because it highlights a sense of community that can get lost in larger concerts.

Afterward, Neiman contextualized his program, translating the pieces’ French names to English and explaining the stories behind each work. He pointed out what to listen for in each piece: spicy Spanish melodies, repeated ringing notes, and more. I felt connected to him and his pieces in a way that beat trying to read three pages of a small text in a program booklet, the standard for a large concert. Neiman’s effort to introduce his pieces is admirable, and I wish more classical musicians did that.

Finally, Neiman, who initially wanted to be a composer, spoke a little about his own piece, “Visions.”

“It’s inspired by a real vision, not from this world,” he hinted before sitting down at the piano.

Neiman began his recital with this mystical, spacey piece. Fast and repeating broken chords formed a cinematic backdrop to the hauntingly beautiful melody. “Visions” is reminiscent of Ravel’s style with its fluttering left-hand arpeggios, and the climax is Rachmaninoff-esque in its lush harmonies. Neiman has a gift to make even the sparsest moments in his music sound interesting like each note carries its own story.

Neiman proceeded to play Ravel’s Miroirs, a set of five pieces composed in 1905. “Miroirs” means mirrors in French, and the pieces are like a reflection of Ravel’s bohemian life and mind. In “Nocturelles” (“Night Moths”) and “Oiseaux tristes” (“Sad Birds”), Neiman tastefully brings out Ravel’s style. Interspersed flourishes, tempo changes, and a simple French mood liken the music to an impressionistic painting with loose dabs of color strategically placed here and there. He is an intelligent artist, and he backs up his musical freedom with maturity. His restraint harkens back to an older generation of pianists who let subtlety speak in place of sheer volume.

With as diverse of a set as Miroirs, Neiman gets to display his flashier side in “Alborada del gracioso” (“Morning Song of the Jester”), a stunning Spanish Seguidilla. Neiman plays it crisply straight-cut, to emphasize its toe-tapping rhythmically. His electric energy made this piece my favorite from the set.

Neiman then played Rachmaninoff’s Six Moments Musicaux after the intermission. He lends his delicate touch to “I. Andantino” and demonstrates his mastery of voicing in “V. Adagio sostenuto.” “II. Allegretto," “IV. Presto,” and “VI. Maestoso” are fast and intense, but Neiman holds back on the volume. He never goes full force on the dynamics, which makes for a pleasantly full sound that never sounds bangy. Neiman edges that threshold, and I hoped he would just push it full throttle at least once, especially in “IV. Presto.”

Neiman faced a standing ovation, and the audience’s persistent applause brought him back for an encore. As I left the concert, I felt incredibly renewed. I love classical concerts because they force me to put down electronics and busy work to deeply listen to music for a couple of hours. This show’s intimate nature only added to its restorative quality. It is a great concert for beginners since each of the pieces is only three to seven minutes long, which doesn’t require as much stamina as a 30-minute-long concerto. Each song burns bright and fast, a fleeting depiction of a scene or mood, and Neiman makes the feeling last even after his final chord.

Lead Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 5 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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