Music for Pianos at BAC

The Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), housed in the old 37 Arts building on the border of the newly coined Hudson Yards and slightly more old-school Hell’s Kitchen is one of my favorite performance spaces in the city. Modernly simplistic yet wonderfully intimate – the main theater has a touch over 200 seats in rows of benches – the BAC has showcased versatile pieces spanning theater, dance, film, performance art, and music over the years.

‘Music for Pianos’ caught my eye with the promise of a rarely performed Czerny Quatrour Concertant, op. 230 (Concert for Four Pianos). I was intrigued by the promise of 4 pianists performing together: a feat that poses considerable logistical challenges (and perhaps is why this piece is rarely performed live). But first things first.

The evening started off with Pedja Muzijevic performing a collection of modern and contemporary pieces. The repertoire consisted of  Liszt, Feldman, and Knussen, unified in deconstruction. I can’t say that I was familiar with any of the pieces, but they flowed nicely from one to another and presented an exercise in tonality that was a great herald of the other performances of the evening. An interesting touch was lighting: throughout the performance the light arrangements in the concert hall changed, at one point making almost all but Mr. Muzijevic’s hands invisible to the audience.

Natasha Paremski was next with the New York premier of Kahane’s Piano Sonata: a piece that was written for her, and that was not only a welcome discovery, but also a fantastic showcase of both her technical skills and her electric personality. I’m holding out for a recording of this piece and have become an ardent fan of Ms. Paremski’s.

The pièce de résistance was next: four pianos were rotated towards one another, and Mr. Muzijevic, Ms. Paremski, Anne-Marie McDermott and Inon Barnatan took the stage. What followed was a beautiful, playful piece that the performers themselves seemingly enjoyed at least as much as the audience did. At each hand-off between two pianos there were smiles, coquettish looks, and engaging body language from each of the performers — Mr. Barnatan could have easily fit in at  a jazz concert, with his head bopping left and right, and his lips emoting the melodies as his colleagues were playing. Czerny wrote this piece for four of his piano students, clearly with a lot of love and with the intent to showcase their respective skills and strength, while at the same time entertaining the less technical audience with ear-pleasing melodies. For the second time in the same evening I wished for a recording, but my attempts to find a digital download of either this* or of Mr. Kahane’s Piano Sonata have so far yielded little headway.

All in all, a wonderfully curated selection and a true gem of a performance with the Czerny concert. Once again, the BAC triumphs.

* – Hurray!  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002KU29RK/

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