Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo

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  • A Piano Spectacular
    Conservatorium Theatre. Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, May 30.

NOW here's a good way to compensate for changes in a concert's advertised repertoire. Stick in Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg giving a barnstorming performance of John Adams's two-piano masterpiece Hallelujah Junction, complete with million-mile-an-hour hands rocking the house, while discarded music is thrown in all directions.

The littered stage at the end bore witness to classical music's equivalent of a rock band trashing the set, and was just as exciting.

Then, Brisbane's most virtuosic duo teamed up with fellow pianists Stephen Emmerson and Peter Roennfeldt, along with 10 percussionists, for a dazzling, and rare, performance of George Antheil's Ballet Mecanique.

Originally intended for a film but reworked in 1953 as a concert piece, it's like a Rite of Spring for massed percussion, and makes fine use of aeroplane propellers and killer xylophone parts. Mechanical it may be, but sterile it ain't. In fact, it's drama-charged throughout, rising to a tremendous climax that was worth cheering, which the privileged few who attended this best classical concert of the year in Brisbane duly did.

MUSIC

A Piano Spectacular
Conservatorium Theatre. Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, May 30.

 

The pinnacle of the first half was undoubtedly Viney-Grinberg piano duo’s breathtaking rendition of “Variations on a Theme of Paganini”, the only surviving piano arrangement of 200 written by Lutoslawski for his Warsaw piano duo during World War II. This difficult work was performed with confidence, sensitivity and great technical skill.

 

The second half of the program presented a magnificent performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in the two piano arrangement by Viney-Grinberg piano duo and Synergy Percussion. This performance, at a tempo much faster than Stravinsky himself had dared in his piano roll recordings of the work, delivered a dazzling array of instrumental pyrotechnics and extreme tonal and dynamic ranges.

 

“Polyrhythms” precisely co-ordinated between pianos in “The Adoration of the Earth,” with its accented staccato passages, before moving seamlessly into the beautiful legato sections in “The Sacrifice”. It is rare to hear such an accomplished performance of this work and the audience collectively held its breath from the first to the last notes.

As the final bars rang out a wildly appreciative audience leapt to its feet and the first concert of the Canberra International Music Festival was concluded with standing ovations. Let’s hope the rest of the festival lives up to this impressive start.

AN opportunity for two pianists to show their true colours, “Rhapsody In Red, White And Blue” was an absorbing and entertaining concert.

The Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo (Liam Viney, of Australia, and Anna Grinberg, from Israel) played four very different selections, two for two pianos and two four-hand pieces.

In an Australian premiere, Percy Grainger’s, “Fantasy” on Gershwin’s “Porgy And Bess”“ for two pianos was played with dramatic flair as well as great emotional feeling.  The highlight was the contrasting sadness of “My Man’s Gone Now” followed by the sprightly “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, the playing capturing perfectly the intention of Gershwin’s music.

By contrast, John Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction” from 1998 was a challenging and no doubt technically difficult piece to play, but was still a delight for the ear.  Of all four pieces played, this exciting work demonstrated the performers’ formidable skills best of all.

Carol Close’s arrangement for four hands of Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria” and “America” from “West Side Story” was a nice study in contrasts and Benjamin Britten’s “Overture to “Paul Bunyan” was a dramatic and exciting piece for four hands well-played by the two performers.

Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for two pianos was the finale of the program and the performers captured its emotional colours very well throughout.  The rapturous applause from the audience at the end of this excellent concert was well-deserved.

Liam Viney's recital: a spectacularly successful journey into the world of contemporary Australian piano music, with Peter Sculthorpe's (b. 1929) evocative, mysterious "Three Pieces for Piano" making a most natural centerpiece. Viney's tone is warm and full. His musical imagination is as large as the continent he comes from. That's a good thing, because the music on his varied and colorful program took listeners to many places. It was an invigorating experience hearing such a commanding and authoritative recital. He is 30 years old. His stunning performance of Carl Vine's (b. 1954) Piano Sonata No. 1, which I first heard played by his countryman Michael Kieran Harvey in 1993, displayed a thrilling virtuosity and an almost preternatural ability to create the kind of rich sonority that almost lifts a listener off the ground. After the recital, someone asked if he was left-handed, so powerful was the sound coming from that side of the piano. "No," he said. At least on this night, he sounded like an Australian Maurizio Pollini--a two-handed pianist who is unbeatable in certain areas of the piano literature. Viney performed the entire recital from memory. Amazing. Clearly, this was not meant merely to impress. This music is in his blood, representing a labor of love on a scale seldom seen these days. I learned later that the pianist performed the U.S. premiere of Matthew Hindson's (b.1968) challenging and exhilarating techno-prankish "Plastic Jubilation" unaided by a click track. Wow. There were five U.S. premieres on his program. (Thank goodness for the Piano Spheres series.) I need to hear Nigel Westlake's Piano Sonata again. I've never heard of this 50-year-old Australian composer. His work gave Viney an opportunity to show what he can do with those propulsive rhythmic figures in the first of the Sonata's three movements, played without pause. For a while, it was as if composer and pianist were channeling the restless spirit of Prokofiev.
An absolutely first rate performance of three excerpts from Robert Schumann's Six Etudes in the Form of a Canon in the two piano arrangement by Claude Debussy was delivered by the husband and wife team of Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg. I cannot imagine a finer performance, as this one had everything, illuminating every bar of the music. They followed this with the technical tour de force that is John Adams' Hallelujah Junction, a work for two pianos that I think has more notes packed into about 14 minutes than the entire first act of Gotterdammerung. Intricate beyond its worth, nearly interminable, and filled with more perils than an Afghanistan mine field, I don't think that Viney and Grinberg flubbed an entrance or misplayed a phrase. The audience went wild, and it had little to do with John Adams.
Liam Viney is a fabulously equipped pianist and his recital of Australian piano music was one of the most exciting I've heard in the last couple of decades. In addition to being an invaluable introduction to some of the most vital and individual music being written anywhere today, it was also a hugely entertaining evening. One doesn't usually think of contemporary music as being crowd-pleasing, but if the Piano Spheres audience was any indication, then this selection certainly was. Viney proved an ideal guide to this wide ranging, technically challenging music. In fact, his playing was so exuberant and effortless that he must certainly rank with the most accomplished pianists of his generation.
(Viney's playing had) "maturity and flair"
"Tuesday's was a first-rate performance...The piano parts are exceptionally difficult... I wonder what Stockhausen would have thought of Ray, a member of Piano Spheres, and Viney, a young Australian pianist on the CalArts faculty. Their virtuosity went beyond technique (with which they are fully equipped). They added the element of joy, and even humor, as if to say that Stockhausen may be over the top but that "Mantra" is a great piece anyway. I thought they got it just right."
"Given such a demanding work I’m pleased to be able to commend Viney on a tremendously powerful performance. Viney, wearing a neck brace either in anticipation or because he caught Young’s whiplash, brought out the pythian anguish of the music in the two outer movement’s well; discerning too was Viney’s selection of tempi (robbing Prokofiev of his motoric force is about the worst crime a pianist can commit), and the bathetic hilarity of the inner Minuet (Andante sognando) with its drunken counterpoints was splendidly done. The series concluded with the mighty Sonata No. 7 in B Flat Major, Op. 83... this work calls for virtuosity of the finest order. The soloist once again was Liam Viney ... in a blistering execution of the notorious toccata finale (Precipitato), and the cynical faux naiveté of the middle movement’s lyricism was captured beautifully."
"An absolutely first rate performance of three excerpts from Robert Schumann's Six Etudes in the Form of a Canon in the two piano arrangement by Claude Debussy was delivered by the husband and wife team of Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg. I cannot imagine a finer performance, as this one had everything, illuminating every bar of the music. They followed this with the technical tour de force that is John Adams' Hallelujah Junction, a work for two pianos that I think has more notes packed into about 14 minutes than the entire first act of Gotterdammerung. Intricate beyond its worth, nearly interminable, and filled with more perils than an Afghanistan mine field, I don't think that Viney and Grinberg flubbed an entrance or misplayed a phrase. The audience went wild, and it had little to do with John Adams."
"...last night was a revelation for me. PianoSpheres opened its new season with Vicki Ray and her CalArts colleague Liam Viney... I really liked Mantra. I was captured by it. The hour went by and seemed like 15 minutes."
"Violinist Roberto Cani and pianist Liam Viney made the tricky Stravinsky pieces sound easy."
"I think that the dancers more naturally responded to the music being created there with them, especially played as well as it was by Liam Viney and Roberto Cani, piano and violin respectively."