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SIX PIANISTS AT THE TATHAM (article first published : 2004-03-14)

The rumblings produced by more than two hands at one piano take on a whole new dimension with a special celebratory piano ensemble performance at the Tatham Art Gallery on March 14 at 15h30. Celebration II - The Six Pianists or the Big Concert For So Many Hands will be presented by the Pietermaritzburg-based Music Revival.

This piano ensemble fund raising concert for four hands, six hands, eight hands and an incredible twelve hands - that's 60 fingers - at two pianos, will create a very special event. Exploring the possibilities for this combination Music Revival’s Christopher Duigan is joined by pianists Andrew Warburton, Claire Wright, Patrick Harty, Graeme Taute and Richard Brookes who pool their strengths.

“The Tatham celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and we celebrate the pivotal role it plays in our city’s cultural life in a ongoing series of events,” says Christopher Duigan. This is a unique event as few instruments can be played by more than one person at a time – imagine two people trying to play the same violin! The idea of more than two hands playing a keyboard instrument has fascinated composers since Mozart who wrote the first real pieces of music for the combination of two players at one piano (duet) and also at two pianos (duo).

“Four hands at one piano allows for a fuller texture and complex layering of sounds while two pianos also allows a doubling over of the same range. Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos, to be on Sunday's programme, was used in the experiment that resulted in scientists proclaiming that listening to Mozart made you more intelligent, if only briefly. The complex strands of uniform sounds that result from four hands playing over itself “simultaneously” is quite a lot for the brain to absorb.”

The extremes of the piano are exploited in the other major work to be performed, Rachmaninoff's Two Piano Suite No 1. From the quiet murmurings of night and love to the massive ringing of Easter bells, Rachmaninoff demands a far greater range of sound and colour from a piano than any other composer. The effect of the three pieces, L'amour ... La Nuit (Night ... Love), the Tears and Easter Bells promises to be mesmerizing.

To complete the programme the performers will explore fun ideas starting with four hands at one piano playing the popular Nola and Chopsticks, a waltz composed by Arthur de Lulli. Ever wondered why it is called Chopsticks? The hands should be held sideways resembling a chopping motion when playing this piece!

For six hands at one piano, there is a Galop - Qui Vive and a Gershwin song arrangement I Can’t Sit Down, accompanied by more appropriate actions. Four hands at one piano are doubled - that's eight hands at two pianos - to play two popular melodies from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt - Anitra's Dance and In the Hall of the Mountain King.

Finally, there is a special arrangement composed specially for the concert with three pianists to each piano - that's 12 hands, six pianists - playing two very familiar classical tunes; one a waltz by Strauss and the other a march by Mendelssohn. “This may a first and may never happen again!,” says Christopher Duigan, “and for good measure Scriabin's Nocturne Op 9 is included, composed after damaging his right hand due to excessive practicing, for the one hand alone!”

Proceeds from this concert go to the Music Revival Trust which provides funding for visiting artists, as well as educational and children's concerts. Minimum donation is R30 and the concert lasts 120 mins. There is secure parking in the Tatham grounds.

Bookings through Music Revival on 033 342-3051, e-mail chris@musicrevival.co.za or or take a chance at the door!




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