Opening summer concert at IU highlights two-piano compositions
By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | firstname.lastname@example.org
June 22, 2011
Would that more academic requirements resulted in so much pleasure for others as Monday evening’s opening concert of the Indiana University Summer Music festivities.
The concept for “Charles Webb and Friends” originated in the needs of a Webb “Friend,” the second pianist on the program that filled Auer Hall.
Steven Mann, an alumnus of the Jacobs School, where he studied with Menahem Pressler, is currently a doctoral candidate at the Manhattan School of Music. Part of his academic obligation is to give a recital. He chose to focus much of that recital on two-piano compositions, to request assistance from Webb, dean of the school when Mann was enrolled, and to perform it here.
Since the name “Webb” holds more drawing power in Bloomington than “Mann,” it was Charles Webb’s that was chosen to promote the concert. Splendid pianist and musician that Webb is, he contributed significantly to the event.
But only Steven Mann performed in all of Monday’s selections, and he left no doubt about his own keyboard qualifications. He is a fine pianist.
The two opened the program with Mozart: the Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos, K.448, a work that calls for a seamless conversation between the players in solo and duo passages that roll forth in exhilarating fashion. The called for was achieved; the music gained from a level of interplay that was not only appropriate but seemed totally comfortable.
Webb then left the stage to Mann and the young Esther Kim, a recent IU Artist Diploma recipient. They joined for more Mozart, the Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano, K.301, a two-movement piece that served to highlight Kim’s ability to deliver exquisite tones and Mann’s sensitivity to the dynamic restraints required for a successful piano-violin partnership.
After intermission, Mann and Webb welcomed other “Friends” for a performance of Robert Schumann’s Andante and Variations in B-Flat Major for Two Pianos, Two Cellos, and Horn. Joseph Kaizer and Alan Ohkubo were the cellists and Jeff Dunford horn.
The instrumental combination is unusual for this 20-minute array of just-as-unusual variations on a serviceable theme. Schumann reportedly was not totally sold on his own score and later changed and shortened it for two pianos. The five-musician version does meander and appears to sort of run out of steam. But Monday’s quintet treated the whole of it with respect.
To close, Mann and Webb enthusiastically tore through Camille Saint-Saens’ Variations on a Theme of Beethoven, a playful tour de force that engages the pianists in ping pong dialogue, plentiful fireworks and even a fugue.
For Mann, it was an opportunity to tie down his credentials, which he did.
For Webb, it must have been a memory trip to the long years he partnered with Wallace Hornibrook. The Saint-Saens Variations were among the popular duo’s most requested concert items. Listening on Monday, one again could understand why.
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2011