Listeners are in for a rare treat when two grand pianos share the stage with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra at the next concert featuring the Bergmann Piano Duo.
The lush, voluminous sound of four hands playing on two keyboards was commonly heard in the 1950s and ’60s, but is now more of a rarity, said Elizabeth Bergmann.
She thinks the decline in double-pianist concerts has something to do with the enormous logistics of packing two grand pianos around the country. “You need to tap into your adventurous spirit,” said Bergmann, who performs with her pianist husband Marcel at the RDSO’s Something Old Something New concert on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.
Although the duo will not be wheeling any unwieldy instruments off a truck in Red Deer (since the RDC Arts Centre has its own pianos), they are in other Alberta centres.
Bergmann joked that she and Marcel are getting exceptionally good at handling a dollie.
The two international prize-winning, B.C.-based pianists are also becoming very adept at sharing an original piece of music with audiences — Marcel Bergman’s Urban Pulse, which will be performed with the RDSO.
The composition was commissioned for the Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition in 2005 and was since arranged for orchestra.
The upbeat, energetic work features unusual harmonies and rhythmic progressions, as well as a bluesy, driving middle movement, said Elizabeth Bergmann. “It’s a very fun, jazz-inspired piece” that should be interesting to hear with orchestral accompaniment.
The Bergmann Piano Duo will also perform Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, which is described as a lovely and delightful work.
The evocative composition has colourful melodies based on a meeting of French cafe and Balinese influences. “It’s eclectic in style. (Poulenc) even steals from himself, quoting from himself as a composer,” said Elizabeth, who looks forward to performing it with her old friend, RDSO music director Claude Lapalme and his orchestra.
The Bergmanns, who met while both studying with the same piano instructor in Hanover, Germany, in 1987, have performed globally and made several recordings, which are often broadcast by the CBC. Marcel, a Munich native, moved to Elizabeth’s hometown of Calgary before both relocated about five years ago to White Rock, south of Vancouver.
“We haven’t been back to perform since, so we look forward to reconnecting with our music friends in Alberta,” said Elizabeth Bergmann.
Another original work will also be performed — Lapalme’s arrangement Fantasie on Canadian Folk Themes. It’s based on two French Canadian compositions — a violin tune that mimics the sound of a hurdy gurdy, and a charming children’s song with an off-beat title: Oh if my monk would only dance, I’d give him a hood.
Lapalme indicated his string section is in for a workout with this short but demanding composition.
To create the centuries-old hurdy gurdy sound for his Fantasie, special adaptions must be made to some violins. “The bottom two strings will have to be tuned up a tone,” he said, so it sounds as if a capo is used to clamp the strings down. “This produces the kind of chords and drones that couldn’t normally be produced.”
Spoons will also be played by RDSO percussionists to add to the folkiness.
The last work is another expressive piece— Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta. The composition with its famous clarinet solo starts slowly and moodily, but gradually builds to a frenetic dance.
“It’s a fun concert” — although a technically difficult one for musicians, said Lapalme. “It’ll be tricky for us but fun for the audience.”
Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert are $59.35 ($54.85 seniors/ $43.35 students or the first four rows) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.