2 Pianos 4 Hands & A Bouncing Ping-Pong BallThursday, March 21, 2013
For me there is an unfathomable gulf between musicians and me. I appreciate music, I love music, I can even read music in a basic way taught by a teacher in high school who strongly urged me (forced) to learn to play the alto saxophone.
The language of music, the communication between musicians, the discourse of serious music critics, are all hocus-pocus handshakes of a Masonic order.
At the same time as a high school teacher I have been privy to conversations in teachers’ rooms that might make some parents avoid sending their children to school. Or what can we say about being a fly on the wall in a ballet (female or male) dressing room?
My daughter Hilary and I were shown into that world of music (flies on the wall it seemed sometimes during the evening) so alien to us by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt last night in the opening performance of 2 Pianos 4 Hands at the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Stanley Industrial Stage. The performance was presented by Marquis Entertainment and Talking Fingers Inc. and directed by pianists/actors/humorists Dykstra and Greenblatt.
For years since 1957 when I first heard an LP recording of Victor Borge in my English class in Austin, Texas I have been a fan ( I went to many of his shows) of humor at the keyboard. I can still remember, “What do you call two or more portugoose? Portuguese!”
The Great Dane was slapstick with good taste and my only criticism is that he never ever finished any of the music that he ever started. It was great music interruptus.
2 Pianos 4 Hands opened with a lovely but fractured rendition of J.S. Bach's Concerto in D Minor 1st movement and ended with the same movement complete. There was a heartfelt encore from Bach’s BWV 208 Cantata, Was mir behagt, ist nur der Munter Jagd in that pastoral segment called “where sheep may safely graze”, transcribed for two pianos by Mary Howe who we learned is not Gordie Howe’s mother. How was I to know that the delicate plinking on the piano keys were sheep's bells?
During this show we found out that Vlad (Vladimir Horowitz) had mastered (or perhaps not) ping pong in order to play Franz Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No 1.
The show was full of humor and virtuoso playing including a very nice single piano performance of Richard Rogers/ Lorenz Hart’s My Funny Valentine. There was a fine balance between the classy slapstick (these two men can do wonders with their faces in absolute silence) and the music which played in Borgian spurts or at length was always spot on.
Unlike my wife I never read the program until after the show. I was pleased and surprised to discern in the arguments between parent and son, teacher (Dykstra plays an Italian piano teacher, Scarlatti, who has a Bach problem) and young man, young teacher and housewife (Richard Greenblatt can be a woman without having to dress in drag one minute and the next he is Glenn Gould slouching at the piano) that much of the material is autobiographical.
Much of the material reflects the many years that my wife and I nagged our two daughters and then our two granddaughters. One daughter is thankful that we forced her to continue with her guitar while our little granddaughter happily practices her violin every day.
2 Pianos 4 Hands is theatre, a concert, standup (and sit down) comedy, musical school (which keys are sad and which are happy? - it is the kind of show that is perfect for a whole family. Victor Borge is, sadly, gone, but we have this pair of Canadians to be justly proud of. And they sometimes finish what they start!