Two Pianos x 2, posted June 19, 2007 at 02:32 PM
I had the pleasure of attending a piano concert last night at The National Arts Club. It was a short program of two works for two pianos. The program opened with Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 2 for 2 pianos, Op. 17. I had never heard this before, and it was wonderful--with all the flash, vigor, and lyricism one associates with Rachmaninoff. The suite is four movements, with intriguing time-changes and varying colors of mood throughout. The second-movement waltz bubbles like a fountain.
The program's other work, a world premiere, was by a young composer, Aaron Severini. I've been a fan of Severini's for a good while--though in his role as a dancer with New York City Ballet. I had no idea he was a composer as well until less than a week ago when I read about this concert. I enjoyed this piece immensely. It's rather bold and perhaps a bit presumptuous for a young artist to program his own work right up next to Rachmaninoff, but I have to say Severini held his own. The work, called Flit of Fury--The Monarch, is composed as one movement, but seemingly structured in three parts. Rhythmically complex and technically difficult, the performance by Steven Beck and Stephen Gosling was assured and full of feeling. The composer, looking exceedingly refined in a suit as black as River Styx, told us afterward that the pianists had only a month or so to learn the work, so it's impressive they could perform it with such seeming ease. He also told us this was more or less the very first public performance of any complete composition of his. An auspicious debut indeed.
I ran into my friend Ryan Streber, also a composer, and as we left the concert he remarked how unusual it is for a dancer to also be a composer. (The obvious exception being Meredith Monk who, like Severini, is composer, dancer, and choreographer). Severini's piece definitely had a quality about it of being music that would fit well with choreography. (Earlier excerpts from it have already been used by City Ballet's New York Choreographic Institute).
And how wonderful to hear chamber music in a chamber, rather than in a large concert hall! We sat directly behind the pianists--so close I could follow along in their scores. It was the last concert of the season at the National Arts Club, but I'll have to remember to check their programming next season, in the hopes of finding more evenings as delightful as this one.
You can hear musical excerpts of Severini's work on his site.