Inverurie Music presented on Saturday evening at the Town Hall, Duo B!z’art (André Roe and Geoffrey Baptiste). In a four hands on one piano performance, they earned enthusiastic applause and a reward of two encores. There is an extensive repertoire of pieces for four hands but much of this has been put in the bottom of the piano stool for concerts, unfairly branded as home entertainment for the drawing room.
The Hungarian Dances, whose popularity marked Brahms’s progress from the seedy dens of Hamburg to the concert halls of Vienna, are an example of the original duets being swamped by other arrangements. Solo and orchestral versions muscled out the original for four hands, while other composers cashed in on the set of ten to produce a total of twenty-one. While this may not be musical piracy exactly, orchestral versions have adulterated the immediacy and sharpness of solo instruments to the musical ear.
The latter half of the 19th Century saw a craze for cabaret “gypsy” music. The Dances were influenced or drawn from these sources but Brahms was unaware that this music was not authentic Hungarian folk music. The languid melodies and catchy wild stomps are interlaced with special effects that imitate folk instruments such as the cimbalom or dulcimer. The duo played with verve and splendid synchronicity, showing the concentration and mental preparation to switch rhythms and treat each dance as an entity.
The following piece was an ideal contrast for here the piano imitates nothing specific, perhaps the landscape the forms in the mind of the individual listener. The piano is the entity – stretched to the full in its harmonic overtones by the four hands format, expertly and sensitively played by the duo. John Hearne’s “Solemn and Strange Music” was written in 1998 and won the Gregynog Composer’s Award for Wales in 1998.
Many smiles could be seen on the faces of the audience in the opening of Dolly by Fauré as the opening “Berceuse” (Cradle Song) was the theme tune for “Listen with Mother” from 1950 to 1982. The piece has never lost its appeal and four hands allow the control and subtle variation that Geoffrey and André exploited to the full. Faure’s music contains a great deal in a short space in its evocation of the “jazz age.”
Edward Grieg’s Norwegian Dances were written for piano duo in 1880 and have remained popular ever since. André explained the Scottish connection (Grieg’s grandfather emigrated to Norway in the late 1770’s) and the duo went on to give an expressive and clearly articulated performance.
Born in New York, Edward MacDowell was born of Irish/Scottish Quakers and was perhaps the first American composer to be taken seriously on the international stage. “Moon Pictures” was named after stories by Hans Christian Anderson, each page making up a picture book.
Samuel Barber’s “Souvenirs” were also “children’s pieces.” Here they were evocations of the composer’s visit to New York as a child with his mother. These were played with perfect balance and clarity and brought the audience back into dance mood. The encores included a splendid rendition of rhythm and drive in the “Libertango” by the Argentinian composer, Piazzolla.
Well done, Duo B!z’art!
29th October 2019