Pianos to the forefront in chamber concert opener
VAIL — It was hard to find a seat during Tuesday evening’s Bravo! Vail chamber concert.
Not only was Donovan Pavilion filled up with concert-goers, but a quintet of pianists were trading places early and often during the aptly titled program, “Music for Two Pianos,” the first chamber concert of the annual music festival.
“I like the intimacy, the selection of music,” said Baltimore’s David Paige, who attended Tuesday’s concert with his wife, Nancy. “The classical repertoire is both soothing and ethereal. I really love it greatly. But I really love the entire Bravo! Vail series. We’ve been coming out here for seven or eight seasons. Not to be trite, but we used to come out only for the skiing.”
Paige also described Bravo! Vail’s music programing as “eclectic,” an apropos description of the evening composers from Schumann and Liszt to Glass and Sousa.
Guest pianist Christopher O’Riley and Bravo! Vail’s Anne-Marie McDermott, the festival’s artistic director who is no stranger to the keyboard, opened the concert with Glass’ Four Movements for Two Pianos. O’Riley and McDermott elegantly exchanged Glass’ trademark rhythm as well as soaring melodies.
O’Riley and Alessio Bax were next up for Schumann’s Andante and Variations for Two Pianos, which the former described from the stage as “more of a conversation” than the previous Glass composition.
“We enjoy the amphitheater concerts also, but the chamber concerts are more personal, closer,” Donna Murphy, of Scottsdale, Arizona, said. “We’ve gone to the (Vail Interfaith) Chapel for the different (concerts) too, and this is a wonderful venue for the concert tonight, and we’re thoroughly enjoying the duo pianos.”
And the pianists were just getting started on those two pianos. After Sukarlan’s Humiliation of Drupadi, in which Drupadi actually escapes humiliation, thanks to Krishna, and the intermission, the second half of the program was all scored for four piano players ant two keyboards.
Fei-Fei Dong and Nicolas Namoradze, the inaugural 2015 Bravo! Vail piano fellows, switched in and out for each other with Bax, McDermott and O’Riley as varying quartets played Smetana’s Sonata in E Minor and Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre.
The Smetana was a rare opportunity to hear another work by the composer best known for the symphonic poem “Ma Vlast,” or “My Homeland.”
Before the concert began, McDermott said from the stage that the quartets were “a ridiculous amount of fun.” That became apparent to the audience as Bass, O’Riley, McDermott and Namoradze took on a playful presentation of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
If the audience hadn’t had their fill during the Fourth of July weekend, Dong subbed in for Namoradze for Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” all playing the final verse while standing as the audience clapped along.
Bravo! Vail’s chamber series continues at Donovan Pavilion on Tuesday with “Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” a concert that includes the aforementioned as well as works by Bach and Grieg.