Brahms Double Concerto Premiere

During our visit to beautiful, snowy Santa Fe this past Christmas Eve, we were excited to premiere a work that has been years in the making: Brahms' Double Concerto in our arrangement for two pianos and orchestra. We were fortunate to perform the work with the Performance Santa Fe Symphony under the direction of maestro Joseph Illick, whose boundless positivity and supreme flexibility made the premiere a joyous success. 

Brahms often struggled with instrumentation when composing. For example, he morphed his string quintet into a two piano sonata before finally settling on its final form: a piano quintet. Similarly, the first piano concerto began as a sonata for piano, four hands. But regardless of his music's instrumentation, one gets the sense that he conceived at the piano, especially given how many of his works he ultimately arranged for piano duo and duet. In fact, Brahms arranged nearly every piece he wrote for the genre — see Christian Köhn and Silke-Thora Matthies’s complete 18-disc set of Brahms' piano duo music for evidence. 

With the Double Concerto, the solo violin and cello lines translated themselves idiomatically to the piano. We were further delighted by the number of similarities between this concerto and his two solo piano concertos, which we ultimately highlighted in the arrangement itself. The pieces feels as if we're performing a big, Romantic Brahms piano concerto, but with the added dialogue of a double concerto. And suitably, the piece's biographical subtext remains firmly in place (the piece was composed as something of a reconciliation plea to violinist Joseph Joachim); the piece now serves as a universal statement of pain, forgiveness, and friendship.

In this committed unveiling, it came across as an effective concert work, a useful addition to the regrettably small repertoire of concertos for two pianos and orchestra.
— Santa Fe New Mexican

Cabaret at The Rep

It's Greg here, commenting on our latest concert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - an awesome cabaret-style event with an awesome audience! We were so fortunate to premiere our new depiction of Saint-Saens' zoological fantasy in a theatrical setting populated with joyous listeners.

Our latest composition is a completely new take on Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals. This is not the Carnival of the Animals you heard in your third grade music class, even though it's based on some of the familiar melodies from the original score (in addition to a whole lot more). The piece attempts to go beyond a simple musical depiction of animals; in fact, it has more to say about humans than anything else...

The premiere went remarkably well, considering the rush to compose and prepare it in time. Yes, there were a few lost notes here and there, but we compensated with our characteristic first-performance adrenaline and spontaneity. I am, nonetheless, quite embarrassed to confess that I completely lost it when Liz began speaking in a pseudo-European accent during the text to "Homo pianisticus!" "Keep a straight face, Greg! Keep a straight face!"

If we learned one thing performing at The Rep in Milwaukee, however, it was this: don't let your audience select and arrange a portion of your program for you. In theory, it was a great idea – it allowed audience members to interact with us and it gave them a say in the shape and content of the program. But in practice, the results can be downright merciless to the performers!

Audience members were given a ballot to fill out during the first half of the concert.

"Please vote for three of the following works. The three or four pieces to receive the highest number of votes will be performed by the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo during the second half of the program."

What did the audience choose? The fastest, most technically challenging pieces on the list! Do we blame them? Of course not! Is it physically possible to follow the first impression from our Star Wars Fantasy with the "Dance of the Earth" from The Rite of Spring and our arrangement of Piazzolla's Libertango? Well, barely!

Regardless, the "Audience Votes" section of our concert kept us on our toes, and we were sure to conclude the concert with an unhurried encore.

If you were in attendance, let us know what you thought!