2008 has been busy for Ryan. In the aftermath of Ryan’s successful Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in Ambassador Hall, and right before beginning orchestra rehearsals for the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2, he gave an intimate recital for a few friends at Colburn School in Los Angeles. Yarlung Records was privileged to record this repertoire. Ryan’s opening track, Debussy’s rain-scented Jardins sous la Pluie, set the tone for the concert. This was a recital conceived by a conductor, not just a pianist. Yes, one can feel the refreshing as well as violent aspects of nature in this piece, but one can also hear the forces of an orchestra coming through Ryan’s approach to his instrument. Ryan focuses on the over-arching musical architecture of the works on this program and deemphasizes ornaments that show off virtuosity.
I spoke with Jeffrey Kahane shortly before Ryan’s performance of the Beethoven Fourth. Ryan had asked Jeff to listen to his approach before the concert. Jeff told me he was deeply moved, and wrote later “I was enormously impressed and genuinely touched by the depth of Ryan McCullough’s musicianship, the authenticity and sincerity of his musical voice and his burgeoning mastery of his chosen instrument.”
Whether Ryan remains a concert pianist or also becomes a conductor, I suspect this approach to his music will remain with him always. Ryan’s concert takes us on a journey from outer landscapes (literally with the Debussy) to inner landscapes and the most private parts of the soul, in Beethoven sonata opus 101 and Schubert’s F Minor impromptu.
Bob Attiyeh, producer