Pianists Misha & Cipa Dichter are in Carmel this week for a double header. Yesterday afternoon at Sunset Center the duo performed a concert of music for two pianos, and next weekend they will be featured in three performances of the Poulenc Concerto for two Pianos with the Monterey Symphony.
Yesterday there was a little something for everybody. One of the afternoon’s hits was Aaron Copland’s El Salon Mexico (arranged for piano by Leonard Bernstein) that featured infectious Latin rhythms and dazzling playing that conjured up images of Carmen Miranda dancing around in platform sandals and tutti-frutti headdresses. At its conclusion, more than one “Olé” was heard from the audience.
The most substantial work on the program was Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2. It is a special pleasure to hear works by Rachmaninoff because music critics during the twentieth century demeaned his compositions as shamefully retrograde and out of sync with modern trends they considered more significant. Today after a hundred years of compositional experiments such as atonality, tone rows, aleatoric music, musique concrète and minimalism (among others), in which composers tried desperately to sound different and often ended up sounding the same, Rachmaninoff’s music has stood the test of time and is as popular and satisfying as ever. The Suite No. 2 is an exciting work with outer movements reminiscent of his popular Second Concerto framing a delightful waltz and a poignant slow movement that can bring tears to your eyes. The Dichters gave us a powerful extroverted performance.
Another surprisingly successful work heard during the afternoon was the rarely-heard Concertino by Shostakovich. Shostakovich loved dazzling passages of unisons several octaves apart that romp all over the keyboard. Well, we heard this in spades in this charming work, and the Dichters gave it their best.
The opening work on the program, the Fantasie in F Minor for Mechanical Organ by Mozart arranged by Busoni, is something of a curiosity. Musicologists have always found this a fascinating work because ornaments and embellishments indicated by ambiguous notational symbols well known to performers of his time, but part of a tradition partially lost to us today, had to be indicated more precisely in the scoring for a mechanical organ. Unfortunately, in the arrangement by Busoni, a lot of the charm of Mozart’s original score has been lost. My guess is that the Dichters wanted something on the program from the eighteenth century and went with the novelty.
Another novelty we heard yesterday afternoon was Liszt’s “Concerto Pathétique in E Minor,” a work that occupied Liszt’s attention for over 25 years and which other pianists have arranged as a solo concerto with orchestra and a concerto for two pianos and orchestra. It is structured as one large multi sectioned movement that tends to ramble from one idea to another. Liszt tries to dazzle us at the end with octave scales and broad chordal melodies, but when all is said and done, Liszt’s arrangements for two pianos of his Spanish and Rumanian Rhapsodies are more successful.
Still, the audience enjoyed themselves and was rewarded by one encore, “Hoe-Down” from Copland’s “Rodeo” Suite. It was delightful.