On June 2, violinist Casey Reed walked into Roshong Recital Hall at Fort Lewis College, thanked the audience for coming and launched into a brilliant, 100-minute program. Music lovers would be forgiven for thinking this was a college-level recital. Classical music fans of Elgar, Kreisler, Schnittke and Ysaÿe would be forgiven for thinking it was a master’s degree recital.
Reed, 18, is closing out his Durango High School career and will enter the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music next fall. Playing the violin since age 5, Reed now has a long list of solo, chamber and symphonic performances, including being invited to join the San Juan Symphony. He seems to have signed up for every master class available, won innumerable prizes. In April, he won the Loveland Orchestra 2022 Young Artist Competition. Last year, he was accepted into the 2022 All National Honors Ensemble Symphony Orchestra.
Most recently, Reed was a soloist in our annual Bach Festival, and he regularly contributes to the Hospice Music Therapy Program. Reed has been studying with Odin Rathnam, via Zoom throughout the COVID-19 era, and this year he has also been mentored by FLC’s new violin professor, Richard Silvers.
At the recital, Reed thanked all his teachers, his family, and the local music community for ongoing support.
But above all, Reed’s senior recital spoke of a 13-year musical odyssey. He chose mostly challenging 20th-century music. Fritz Kreisler’s “Recitativo and Scherzo for Solo Violin” may have been the most virtuosic. Like so many of Kreisler’s works, it is a showcase for skill, dexterity and sheer fortitude. From a low and deceptively dramatic opening to a blazingly fast and furious finish, Reed unfurled the famous violinist’s challenge, and the teenager made it look easy.
Two sonatas performed with pianist Cindy Williams, opened and closed the program. The duo elegantly moved through Franco Margola’s rarely heard Sonata No. 4. Composed in 1944, Margola’s sonata, as described by Reed in opening remarks, was essentially Neoclassical in concept with distinctive 20th-century harmonies.
Edward Elgar’s equally elaborate Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, spoke of late Romanticism. Opening with a powerful, stormy entrance that commanded immediate attention, the work played out through three movements including a muted and sorrowful andante and ending with a triumphant final allegro, no troppo.
When loud and appreciative audience applause subsided, Reed returned and played a six-minute encore: the Allemanda from Eugene Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 4 in E minor. Committed to memory, Reed played with concentrated energy through its intense, dark beauty.
Later, at the reception, mentor Richard Silvers acknowledged that he might have encouraged some of the works on the program. Silvers’ doctoral dissertation happened to be about Elgar, who dedicated his violin concerto to Kreisler. In addition, for those who attended Silvers’ faculty recital earlier this year, he performed Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 4 in full.
Music lovers would be forgiven for thinking Reed’s program was way beyond a senior recital.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.