From Hammered! at Q2: “Red Piano Blue Piano”

Trout Week on Hammered!: chamber music for multiple pianos

Blues Fish (Shannon Simbulan/flickr)

“A stroll through The Juilliard School’s fourth floor strongly suggests that the more pianists, the more scales. Since it’s Trout Week on WQXR, we’re embracing these dense schools of scaly pianistic creatures by showcasing chamber music for piano ensembles.

So, this week, none of that build-to-Friday sequencing, we’re leading with the crazy stuff. Right off the bat on Monday’s Hammered! we have George Antheil’s riotous and often uproarious Ballet Mecanique in a version for four pianos. This is a piece that, no joke, originally called for 16 player pianos, 2 regular pianos, 3 xylophones, at least 7 electric bells, 3 airplane propellers, siren, 4 bass drums, and 1 tam-tam.


So there’s that. Also on Monday we have Steve Reich’s Six Pianos and the classic La Valse for two pianos by Maurice Ravel, a score that is perhaps only slightly easier to dance to than the Antheil.

The chamber music continues all week with some incredibly innovative repertoire: in addition to scores by Olivier Messiaen, Timothy Andres and Dace Aperans (his gorgeous Haiku for Two Pianos), listen in for Kevin Volan’s Cicada for two pianos on Thursday, Tristan Perich’s Duet on Friday, and on Wednesday, one of the all-time coolest works for two pianos (which includes a movement in hommage to Reich), Gyorgy Ligeti’s Three Pieces.

Minor confession: this week isn’t entirely devoid of a build-to-Friday programmatic trajectory. Tune into a must-hear Friday presentation of the ultimate chamber work for multiple pianos (three to be exact, plus three harps and three percussionists), sur Incises by recent birthday boy Pierre Boulez!

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