Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Anderson and Roe's 'Flights of Fantasy' in Review

My friend and pianophile Andrew Ang attended the famous piano duo's recent concert in Singapore. Here's his report:

Anderson and Roe delivered an interesting concert "Flights of Fantasy" on 13 June 2014 at Esplanade Concert Hall. The artists have given considerable thought to their imaginative programming, which covers serious "classical" piece (Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn), transcription from operas, songs, dance, to arrangement of pop songs (Radiohead's Paranoid Android). Most of the works are arrangement made by the artists themselves, demonstrating their understanding of the piano duo genre, and they did it successfully, milking the effect to demonstrate their technical competency.

The concert started with "Papageno", a short fantasy based on Papageno's arias from Mozart's Die Zauberflote. This light-hearted duet is well played, the artists are able to capture the humorous character of Papageno. The duet is followed by the mammoth Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn, a technically and emotionally demanding piece. The duo executed this piece well, not losing sight of the complex architecture of a Brahmians variation despite the emotional complexity of each moment.

The next two works form a contrasting pair. The arrangement of the well known Villa-Lobos "Aria (Cantilena) from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" calls for a long cantabile line (originally intended for human voice). Despite the percussive nature of the piano, the artists are able to bring out the long cantabile lines of this famous song, while giving attention to the intricate accompaniment. In contrast, Radiohead "Paranoid Android" has a Prokofiev-like feel, the artists emphasized dissonance, creating a percussive cacophony of a midnight scream. By now, the audience is totally captured by this duo, and the arrangement of Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca in the style of American Ragtime is an appropriate arrangement to call an end to the first half of the concert.

After the break, the animal suite once again demonstrate the duo's imaginative programme, grouping Scalatti's "Cat Fugue" and Saint-Seans' "The Swan" with Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". Particularly worth mentioning is the Bumblebee arrangement, this piece already has several different arrangements, but the duo's arrangement is effective, the sparkling virtuosic piece brilliantly created that swarm of bees effect that the composer intended.

Like the bumblebee, Bizet's Carmen is a hot favourite inspiration for generations of transcribers, and the duo successfully weaved several well known tunes into an organic work that successfully end the second half of the concert.

The encores includes Piazzola "Libertango" and Spanish song "Viva La Vida". A surprise was in store for the audience when Darth Vader and three storm troopers came on-stage to bring about the Star Wars theme song. The concert ends with the pyrotechnic display of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance".

Overall, this is a successful performance, the artists had demonstrated their technical command to bring forth a series of virtuosic pieces. With short spoken introductions before each piece, they also removed the usual alienation of the traditional recital and improved the interaction from the stage to the audience.

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