It was my first day at ANAM in 2007.

No sooner had I sat down at the piano in one of the downstairs practice rooms than I heard the cadenza of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto coming from the next room. It was the kind of playing one doesn’t hear very often and it made my ears prick; it was alive, intense, meaningful, risky. Who could the pianist be? That was my first impression of Tomoe, who was practising like a fiend before concerts in Bulgaria and Romania. A few weeks later, in high spirits and a more relaxed mode after the tour, she came into my room with a friend as I came to the end of Bach’s first partita and animatedly (and with some degree of difficulty, English being new to her) communicated that my playing sounded “like Bach.” I later learnt how special was this praise, coming from a musician whose ears and musical perception are razor-sharp and whose opinion I respect greatly. We quickly struck up a friendship, often playing for each other, sharing and discussing musical ideas, offering support through personal difficulties.

Eleven years later, Tomoe has a PhD and two beautiful boys, and I have lived in the US and Finland and am now on the brink of my third move, this time back to Melbourne. Our friendship has remained a constant over this time, and although the official formation of our duo happened much later, those two years spent at ANAM provided an ideal foundation for our musical partnership. It’s lovely to reflect on those early days of friendship as we prepare for our upcoming concerts as ANAM Artists.

Piano duos have the unique possibility of forming two very different ensembles: two pianos, usually performed with interlocking instruments and pianists separated by a nine-foot divide; and the more intimate piano duet, in which four hands, four feet, two sets of ears and two minds share one instrument. Each is immensely rewarding and contains its own particular joys and challenges.
For our ANAM Artists tour, we are delighted to be presenting two programs that contain some of the greatest music ever written for each combination. Four-hand concerts are a relatively rare phenomenon these days, and one often encounters the attitude that duets are more rewarding for those playing than those listening. It is true that four-hand playing can easily become heavy-handed and lacking in spontaneity, due to the difficulty of merging two minds and bodies into one living musical organism on an instrument whose attack is so precise. But when the challenges are met, four-hand playing can yield magic for audience and players alike. Not to mention the unparalleled treasures to be found in the four-hand repertoire! Debussy’s Six épigraphes antiques is a wonderful example, and features in each of our concerts. Without a superfluous note in sight, and through his ingenious synthesis of different modes and styles, Debussy envelopes us in imaginative worlds of sublime delicacy and beauty.

The prevailing misconception surrounding the bigger, more spectacular distant cousin of the four-hand medium is that two pianos necessarily equal more power, and that more power is inevitable or even desirable. In fact it is on the other end of the spectrum, in the realm of intricacy, atmosphere and subtle interplay, and in the imagining of colours far removed from purely pianistic ones, that two-piano playing comes into its own. Composers who knew and loved the piano as pianists themselves utilised these qualities best, judiciously unleashing the full force of the two pianos when really needed. We’re thrilled to end our first concert in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall with Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances op. 45, a masterpiece that uses the range of the pianos to breathtaking effect

Words by Aura Go (piano 2009)

Wed 3 Oct – Sun 14 Oct

Wed 3 Oct 6.30pm – Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre

DEBUSSY Symphony in B minor for piano 4-hands
DEBUSSY Six épigraphes antiques for piano 4-hands
TCHAIKOVSKY Russian Dance from Swan Lake for 2 pianos arr. Debussy RACHMANINOFF Symphonic Dances op. 45 for 2 pianos

Sat 6 Oct 7pmBarwon Heads Fine Music Society
Wed 10 Oct 1.30pmBeleura House & Garden

SCHUBERT Lebensstürme for piano 4-hands
DEBUSSY Six épigraphes antiques for piano 4-hands
TCHAIKOVSKY Russian Dance from Swan Lake for 2 pianos arr. Debussy
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

Sat 13 Oct 10amPort Fairy Spring Music Festival
SCHUBERT Lebensstürme for piano 4-hands
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

Sun 14 Oct 11.30am
Port Fairy Spring Music Festival
RAUTAVAARA The Fiddlers Op. 1
LIM ‘Sema’ from the Four Seasons after Cy Twombly
RAVEL Miroirs

Aura Go (piano 2009)
Tomoe Kawabata (piano 2007)

For full tour details visit anam.com.au

The ANAM Artists program is supported by the John T Reid Charitable Trusts and the Bowness Family Foundation

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