Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Steinway Spectacular

Tickets for The Steinway Spectacular are a bit pricey, but how often do you get to see eight Steinway concert grands together on one stage, played by eight of Australia's leading pianists? A hundred dollars gets me and GF front-row seats to the concert. (Second-row seats, actually.) The sound and experience you get is really up close and personal. From where we are, we can see the pianists play, their dancing fingers, their facial expressions, their glistening foreheads, etc.

Musical director, conductor, and host is Guy Noble. His spiels are quite funny and interesting. First playdate for The Steinway Spectacular is actually at Melbourne's Hamer Hall on April 11. Mr. Noble calls it a rehearsal for the Sydney leg. Another trivia: for today's concert, we have a new Steinway specially chosen by the Vladimir Ashkenazy at Steinway's Hamburg factory to replace one of Opera House's three concert grands.

The concert opened with Gerard Willems and Clemens Leske playing Mozart's Sonata for two pianos in D major, KV 448. After that, we have Tamara Smolyar and another guy playing Babadjanian Armenian Rhapsody for two pianos. Next up is the Alla marcia & Tarantelle movements from Rachmaninov's Suite No. 2 for two pianos, Opus 17 performed by Sydney Conservatorium of Music students Gregory Kinda, the youngest scholar to enter the Conservatorium, and Alexey Yemtsov, recently discovered and championed by Ashkenazy. Then, a four-piano arrangement of Gounod's Grand Fantasia on Themes from Faust before the interval.

After the interval, we have Strauss' Die Fledermaus Overture, Grainger Fantasy, Ravel's Bolero (with the inclusion of flute and drum), a Gershwin medley, and the final movement of the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saens. For the finale, the eight Steinways and the Grand Organ played The Jolly Jumbuck Fugue from the Waltzing Matilda ballet written by Sir Charles Mackerras. As an encore, the pianists played Peter Allen's I Still Call Australia Home. The piece was so moving, I almost broke into tears.

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