Program Reviews by Valerie

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Peninsula Music Club

IMPRESSIONS OF TWO MAESTROS ON TWO PIANOS
 

I am keen for tonight’s concert titled ‘Two Painted Pianos” to commence with the introduction of a musical mélange by world-renowned classical pianist Simon Tedeschi and highly-acclaimed jazz pianist Kevin Hunt. St. Luke’s Hall is filled to capacity (despite the wet and wintry weather) with a lively audience waiting to hear the unusual combination of classical and jazz piano which will be a new experience for me, and I can sense many in the audience are equally intrigued.  It is sure to “raise the roof” to quote a recent review.

The brief notes tell me the two virtuosi have been playing together for well over a decade to standing ovations. These partners-in-piano will be sharing many of the old favourites with us – ranging from Bach, Debussy, Ellington, Waller, Brubeck, Peterson and Thelonious Monk with a phenomenal arrangement by the two maestros, of Gershwin’s masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue.  Simon will be at the grand piano and Kevin will be introducing the upright and simple-looking Celviano Grand Hybrid digital piano which is lauded as being “three pianos in one”.  Developed in collaboration with C. Bechstein it offers a wide range of tone and the notes tell us that “the new history of the digital piano starts now!” 

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And now it has started I am entranced and quite unable to take notes. A programme is not available as the performance is improvised and appears to be virtually off-the-cuff, with Tedeschi watching and extemporising with sheer brilliance as we are enveloped in one of the most stimulating and exciting concerts I have seen for a long time.  The foot-tapping fast-moving pieces are introduced by a smile from Hunt, the lift of an eyebrow, a nod of his head and now and then a joyous exclamation that elicits an echo from the captive audience. I have to suppress the desire to get up and dance, and to shout my appreciation.

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Simon offers only a few of the classics which Kevin introduces and admits he enjoys it when Simon plays solo! A Chopin etude and waltz take one into another world – gentle then rapid playing and equally absorbing. After the interval he plays Debussy’s enduring classic “Claire de Lune” his fingers barely touching the keys – they seem to float across effortlessly as he once again transports us into another world. "Clair de Lune" is considered one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. It is the third movement of Suite Bergamasque, one of the most loved piano suites of Debussy. He wrote this composition in 1890 at the tender age of 25 – an amazing feat for one so young. "Claire de Lune" (as it is known today) was not published until 1905; its original name was “Promenade Sentimentale.” It was revised prior to publication and “moonlight” the new title for the movement came from a Paul Verlaine poem.

I would like Simon to play more solos but the evening is concentrating on the duo works of jazz rhythms, syncopation, swing, bebop – and no-one is complaining.  We met him in this hall last August and that concert was received with rapturous applause. How lucky we are to see him again.

 

The program is centred on Hunt’s own Painted Piano Suite, this opus, part of Kevin Hunt’s doctoral studies, is the result of his time working with indigenous music students at the Menindee Central School in the far west of Australia. As the composition evolved, the art students painted atmospheric and ancient scenes on panels that are to-night displayed on the screen as Hunt’s variation on his composition, titled Painted Piano Blues swings into life causing heads to nod, feet to go berserk with the repetitive and addictive jazzy beat. Fantastic!

The exchanges between the two musicians, mostly humorous, sometimes serious, confirm a long-standing friendship and a shared sense of fun and freedom which is wonderful to observe as the evening progresses. Simon’s amusing observations belie his somewhat shy disposition while Kevin is a smiley man, free and relaxed as in my experience, are most jazz musicians. A combination that produces the perfect pair.

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I can only say that I could barely tell (if I closed my eyes) which of the two pianos was being played. There seemed to be little difference between the two from the tremendous volume of crashing chords from the grand piano or in total contrast, the hushed sotto voce tonal quality in other pieces such as Ave Maria. Since both keyboards were played with dazzling expertise and obvious pleasure, the mood that engulfed me left no room for anything but delight and gratitude that I am sure, was shared by those who were lucky enough to be at this concert. 

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The evenings at St Luke’s Hall always close with an invitation to the audience to linger with sparkling wines and delicious sandwiches (provided by the hard-working committee) and to meet the performers.

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The next concert Violin Extreme is on Friday 8 November 2019 at 8pm featuring Canadian violist Aleixandre Da Costa with piano accompaniment.

The venue for all the Peninsula Music Club concerts is the Hall at St Luke’s Grammar School on the Bayview Campus.

Valerie copyright Sydney September 2019

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