Robert Henry – 12 Nocturnes And A Waltz
2010, Muuz Records
Robert Henry makes the phrase “Award Winning pianist” almost passé. A gold medal in no less than four international competitions, Henry is considered the complete package as a performer (technique, showmanship, style). Robert Henry earned a Doctorate in Piano Performance from the University of Maryland, and in 2009 was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2002, and is currently a Steinway International artist. Henry also makes a point of engaging in social causes as well. Henry coordinated the “$100,000 Hurricane Katrina Relief Tour”, raising $108,000 from concerts presented around the US, for which he received a Distinguished Service Award in 2006. In 2010, Robert Henry released his debut album, 12 Nocturnes And A Waltz, featuring the works of Chopin, Grieg, Liszt, Stanchinsky, and Chet Atkins, among others.
Henry opens with Chopin’s “Nocturne in D-Flat Major, Opus 27, No.2” in a gorgeous display of dynamics and emotion, underwritten by perfect technique. Henry brings out elements of tension and sadness, and also a sense of expectation. Respighi’s “Notturno” has a melancholy, dream-like aura. Henry’s lyric style is poignant and full of beauty. “Notturno” is among the prettiest performances on the album; sublime in the subtlety of Henry’s hands. “Libersträume, Notturno No. 3” is powerful and full of life. Henry brings Liszt’s opus to life, contrasting grand, theatrical moments with pianissimo passages that are gorgeous. Henry plays this like he wrote it, as if the passages were born from his own heart and mind.
Grieg’s “Nocturne, Opus. 54, No. 4” is lovely, dark and a touch sad. Henry brings out the lyric qualities of the piece in blue passages that are palpably emotive. Henry breaks out in grand style in Chopin’s “Nocturne in B Major, Opus 62, No. 1”, displaying gorgeous piano runs. Moving on to the powerful and vibrant second movement, Henry shakes out the cobwebs with powerful dynamics and a theatrical flair that perfectly matches Chopin’s original vision. “Nocturne (Homage To John Field), Opus 33” is a well-crafted piano interpretation that is prone to fits of aural chaos. The main theme is pretty, but Henry takes listeners along the path of Barber’s variable musings with a combined sense of reverence and glee.
Henry increases the voltage in Fauré’s “Nocturne In E-Flat Major, Opus 36”, a pretty and nuanced piece infused with a swelling sense of drama and cascading, dream-like movements. Henry’s work is gorgeous and powerful, distinctive in its lyrical sense yet refined. Henry sticks with Fauré for “Nocturne In B-Flat Major, Opus 37”, an equally pretty composition, yet more tame both in intent and energy. Henry next tackles John Field’s “Nocturne No. 4 In A Major, H. 37”, displaying brilliance for interpretation and a rare sense of musicality. Fields’ composition is a fluttery piece streaked with dark undertones. Henry manages to bring out the worry lines in the music, subtly painting emotions between the lines. Alexei Stanchinsky’s “Nocturne” is dark, rueful and sweet. Henry takes the sad and longing reminiscence and makes it his own in a virtuoso performance full of palpable place and emotion. Henry closes with his own arrangement of Chet Atkins’ “Waltz For The Lonely”. Henry is both reverent to the original and creative in his transposition of one of Atkins’ finest works to piano.
Robert Henry is a treasure; the sort of talent who comes along once or twice a generation. While the awards and recognitions speak volumes, you have to hear Robert Henry play in order to truly get how good he is. For what it’s worth, Twelve Nocturnes And A Waltz is definitive proof; this is the sort of recording that becomes more revered over time. Henry’s technical skill combined with his sense of lyricism and personality allow him to create magic at the piano. If you’re new to classical music, your collection should start here. There may not be a brighter young light in classical music than Robert Henry.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)Learn more about Robert Henry at http://www.roberthenry.org/. 12 Nocturnes And A Waltz is available as a CD only from Amazon.com.