Anderson & Roe shape piano for a new generation
Songs – as a way we communicate – convey emotions, not just words. Take away the words and emotion remains. Fresh young piano duo Anderson & Roe dedicated a concert Sunday night (June 5) at Cardinal Stritch University to the feelings revealed by songs. They interpreted the music to stress its emotional content.
PianoArts, sponsor of a major biennial piano competition for young players, marked its bye year with a special concert by the duo. Elizabeth Joy Roe is an alum; she won the first competition, in 1999. Roe met Greg Anderson while studying at Julliard. The two have quickly built a contemporary brand in the classical music world, complete with a Youtube channel, Facebook, a blog, sale of original arrangements and personal interaction with an active fan base.
Their 27-point Incomplete Manifesto declares “Music is direct interaction with the human spirit… The musical experience is yours. You live it. You create it. Your engagement is a vital ingredient…Rely on gut instinct.”
They are addressing the listener, but the statement applies to their playing as well. Anderson & Roe put their stamp on everything they write. They do not merely arrange, they transform. Tag-team conversations with the audience explore the intentions behind each work. Piano four-hands arrangements find the pair, arms intertwined, each claiming the whole keyboard. More often at a pair of Steinways, each seems entranced by the music. Arrangements create a continuing dialog between the two.
An arrangement of songs from Bizet’s Carmen found drama in each melody but left the whole as a pastiche. Their treatment of three Jacques Brel songs of unrequited love reinvented Brel, as they ventured well beyond the original melodies to connect to the emotions and build to a satisfying climax in Madeleine.
They played as a set four very different works that address the night. Schubert’s Mondnacht (Moonlight) was teamed with Aria from Bachianus Brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos, which morphed into a rock-based rant Paranoid Android, by the Britsh band RadioHead. A gentle The Glitt’ring Sun by Thomas Arne closed the set. The tour of far-flung colors from the emotional spectrum fit together surprisingly well.
Of course piano as theater is nothing new. Liszt and others had their excesses as performers and wrote virtuosic works designed to credential a pianist who could play something few others could. Anderson & Roe are masters of their craft. They know as well how to move an audience. They strive less for virtuosity for its own sake than for an intense connection to the music. They are an important link in the effort to build a classical audience in the next generation.
The PianoArts North American Biennial Competition and Music Festival returns in June 2012 with seven events culminating in a concert with finalists and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Advance information for competitors and audiences here.