Anderson & Roe shape piano for a new generation

By - Jun 6th, 2011 05:18 pm
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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.

Piano duo Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe - photo by Brent Cline

Piano duo Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe – photo by Brent Cline

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.

Only Brahm’s Variations on a Theme of Haydn was not an their own arrangement. Even this was subject to their own take on dynamics, as they jumped frequently from very soft to very loud with much less in between. Only in the concluding statement did they allow the drama to build more slowly, to reserve energy for a big ending.

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.

Anderson & Roe - Piano four-hands - photo by Brent Cline

Anderson & Roe – Piano four-hands – photo by Brent Cline

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.

0 thoughts on “Anderson & Roe shape piano for a new generation”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A refined performance with uncompromising integrity from start to finish. Nothing superficial–the opposite.

    Thay made the audience reach for the music with a challenging and daring program in no way in the same category as the sort of st…unt work that has at times made connoisseurs shun two-piano performances.

    Having looked at their scores in the lobby, I could appreciate their natural way of maximizing the keyboard with elegant, keyboard-friendly writing which, though pleasantly full and satisfying, has enough air space in it that it allows them to lift more music off of the page and gives them room to express passion and not let excessively busy writing interfere with the fundamental idea.

    They put just the right amount of textual expansion into it and keep it balanced with with impeccable taste and intense meaning.

    I made a commment to Lady Medford that I thought they should play at the White House, but then I moderated that to suggest that right now might not be the best time to do that

    The duo announced that a recording of this repertoire is forthcoming.

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