Cahal Masterson, a gifted young pianist of growing reputation from Belfast, Northern Ireland, has released his first album entitled Transition. It is a compilation of uplifting piano repertoire encompassing music by Liszt, Messiaen, Haydn, Fauré and Bartók. The title is symbolic of his own transition from student to professional performing artist. Cahal is an artist worthy of attention and the CD is a poetic expression of his rare musicianship. The sensuousness in his playing is always within the context of the music’s logic.
Cahal has chosen music representing some of the finest of each of his chosen composers. The first track is Franz Liszt’s Vallée d'Obermann in which Cahal's playing portrays beautifully the emotional turmoil and the eventual exalting climax. Next comes the religiously moving Le Baiser de L’Enfant Jésus by Olivier Messiaen with gorgeous sonorities throughout the meditative score. This is stunningly beautiful music performed with understanding and serenity. Next on the album is Haydn’s Sonata in C minor, Hob XVI/20, an intensely dramatic masterpiece, a contrast from the 19th and 20th century works on the rest of the recording. Cahal captures the bleakness in Gabriel Fauré’s Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 7 and the rhythmic percussiveness of Béla Bartók’s Out of Doors Suite, Sz. 8, showing once again his mastery of 20th century vocabulary.
I had the opportunity to hear Cahal perform most of the music from this album while he was on tour promoting it in Toronto, in which both his lightness of touch and virtuosic power were compelling features of his playing. He displayed sensitivity within his secure technique and insightful interpretations. He created arching musical phrases that soared while bringing out inner voices to accentuate points of interest.
Cahal has paid his dues as a student, firstly graduating from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and then earning an Artist Diploma at the Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Toronto. He has continued his studies in the Master of Music program at Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Virginia on full scholarship and plans to graduate in spring, 2019. There is no doubt that his career is about to take off with performing opportunities in North America and Europe in the coming months.
The album was recorded at the SONO LUMINUS Studios in Boyce Virginia with the support of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans for which Cahal is an International Ambassador. As of June 1st, 2019, it will be available from Amazon and iTunes, both as digital downloads. The CD version is available at cahalmasterson.com.
Cahal Masterson - CD review
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 4th 2019
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Transition - Cahal Masterson; Photo credit: William DeVizia