By Matthew Goodrich
For the February 21, 2016 concert
Duettino Concertante Ferruccio Busoni greatly enriched the piano repertoire through his myriad transcriptions—musical reinterpretations for piano—of works by composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Schubert. The Duettino Concertante, which reimagines the finale of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in F Major, K. 459, is one of the most jubilant of these settings. While faithfully honoring the concerto finale—with its inventive blend of rondo, fugue, operatic style, and virtuosity—Busoni re-created a work of dazzling brilliance for two pianos that shines a spotlight on the inspired joy and zest of Mozart’s original.
Ave Maria Franz Schubert’s beloved “Ave Maria” was originally part of a setting of Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake rather than the Latin prayer text we usually hear. The song, published during Schubert’s lifetime, achieved immediate renown. Just a few years later, Liszt created multiple transcriptions for solo piano. In the Anderson and Roe setting for piano four hands, the performers share the expressive melody and delicate arpeggio figures to otherworldly effect.
Variations on a Theme by Haydn Johannes Brahms composed his Variations on a Theme by Haydn both for orchestra and two pianos. Using the Chorale St. Antoni for his theme, Brahms fashioned a set of eight colorfully crafted variations. Faithful to the chorale’s structure, these unfold in a wonderful variety of moods, culminating in a triumphant variations-within-variations finale over a repeated bass. The work was first heard in 1873 in a Bonn house concert, performed by Brahms and Clara Schumann.
La Valse Maurice Ravel’s “choreographic poem” La Valse, with its elegant Viennese waltzes careening into annihilation, is one of the most famous orchestral scores of the 20th century. The composer offered as description, “I conceived of this work as a sort of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, mingled with, in my mind, the impression of a fantastic, fatal whirling.” The piece consists of a series of waltzes organized into two large sections: the main waltz theme, followed by other elegant, exuberant waltzes, paying homage to a world of cultural refinement; and the same waltzes modified, then whipped into an increasingly destructive frenzy, capturing the catastrophic breakdown of society in World War I. As with the solo performance heard here last fall, the composer himself set La Valse into the duo-piano version. It was in this form that Ravel and Marcelle Meyer first performed the work for ballet impresario Diaghilev at the home of arts patroness Misia Sert.
Lose Yourself to Dance French electronica duo Daft Punk’s dance hit “Lose Yourself to Dance” comes from the 2013 album Random Access Memories. In their reinterpretation, Anderson and Roe exploit the song’s hypnotic, ever-evolving musical motives, “similar to the morphing patterns of light created by a spinning disco ball.”
Billie Jean Michael Jackson’s smash album Thriller is the best-selling recording of all time. The hit song “Billy Jean” captures the essence of film noir and futuristic funk within its pulsing beat. The song’s iconic music video propelled MTV into the commercial mainstream. Anderson and Roe have “reimagined the song in an avant-garde, ‘classical’ vein while emphasizing its nocturnal edginess and MJ’s legendary use of rhythm.”
What a Wonderful World Anderson and Roe describe the beloved classic ballad “What a Wonderful World,” immortalized by Louis Armstrong, as “an invitation to lose yourself to the beauty of the world.” In their transcription, wafts of the Rachmaninoff song “Lilacs” perfume the song’s tenderness and sense of wonder.
Primavera Porteña, Oblivion, & Libertango Of their arrangements of three eminent Astor Piazzolla tangos, Anderson and Roe write: “In transcribing Piazzolla’s irresistible melodies for four hands at one piano, we aimed to emulate the physical choreography of tango dancers, the sonic textures of a tango band, and, most importantly, the emotional spirit of the tango. Within all three of these tangos — the spicy and sassy “Primavera,” the smoky, sultry “Oblivion,” and the raw and risqué “Libertango” — we incorporate extended piano techniques as a metaphor for the tango’s forays into forbidden territory. Four-hand playing already hints at an intrinsic eroticism, but in these tangos, we dare to raise the heat and intensity to another level: we boldly invade one another’s personal space, while also exploring regions of the piano that typically remain unseen. The effect is at once sensual, visceral, and highly dramatic.”
Virtuoso Hungarian Dance No. 5 Johannes Brahms composed 21 dances based on Hungarian themes, of which No. 5 in F-sharp minor, based on a traditional Hungarian folkdance, is the most famous. Heard in myriad treatments, the rollicking piece was originally composed for piano four hands. In creating their two-piano transcription, Anderson and Roe “messed with it and found new ways to reinvigorate it.”