The Italian piano duo of Antonello D’Onofrio and Claudio Soviero initiated the Amarillo College Piano Series September 10 in the Amarillo College Concert Hall Theatre. These virtuosi, called Duo Miroirs, are based in Milan, and are recognized as one of the world’s outstanding four-handed piano duets.
A nice crowd was exposed to the magnificent potential of the Shigeru Kawai grand as these maestros from Milan demonstrated the instrument’s capacity under twenty fingers.
The first work, off-program but a nod to Beethoven’s 25oth birthday, was his Sonata Op.6 from 1797. This two movement piece, which had no immediate public performance, is thought to be a didactic device, since, at this time, the impecunious Beethoven had to accept students to make ends meet.
The number has a delightful, minuettish feel. Significant in the Allegretto is a three short note, one long note motiff which possibly foreshadows the most famous introduction in history from Symphony No. 5.
The second selection was Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, which was originally scored for several instruments but in 1906 was recast for two pianos which Duo Miroirs obviously modified.
The Introduction and Allegro which opened with a solid melody and embellished arpeggiation, has an evolving complexity that proved a real treat for the audience.
Bernard Herman, 1911-1975, wrote film scores for Hollywood, which after the premier he would arrange as suites: thus his Psycho Suite, a narrative of eleven scenes from the movie.
This piece began ominously, with heavy-handed chords, then thematic alteration between the players that was truly psychotic in its instability. These artists made the Shigeru sound like it belonged in the home of the Adams Family.
The gentlemen from Milano also feted the audience with Concertino by Dimitri Shostakovich, composed in 1953 as two piano duet for his son but modified by the artists for one instrument.
The piece shouts Shostakovich, from the propensity to frenzy to the alternating emphasis on rhythm and melody. The composer keeps the listener on edge and D’Onofrio and Soviero did the Russian master justice.
The duo performed a second Ravel, Spanish Rhapsody. This four-part piece began as a Habanera in 1895 for two pianos, to which, in 1907, he added additional segments: Prelude to the Night; Malaguena; Feria. The whole series was orchestrated the following year.
The artists probed the emotional depths of each segment, making Spain resonate through their fingertips. The dynamics range from the evocative first movement, describing a calm sea, to the wild abandon of the celebratory Feria.
Soviero and D’Onofrio gave the Amarillo audience all they could ask for, and, in one number, even plucked the strings from the Shigeru’s soundbox. And all this on the plains of Texas! What a superb way to launch the 2019/20 arts season!
Our gratitude goes not only to these world-class pianists, but also to Dr. Diego Caetano for arranging this performance with help from Art Force and the AC administration, especially Camille Day Nies, Music and Theatre Department Chair, and Rebecca Easton, Dean of Liberal Arts. The result of this amazing collaboration enables us to say, looking forward to this arts season, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”
But wait…….there’s more.
Seems like our itinerant Italians almost missed a Dallas flight because one had a credit card and the other an American license, and they tried to rent a car. Houston, we have a problem!
Flights proved impossible budget busters and the bus arrived too late. Enter David Palmer, artistic director of Chamber Music Amarillo who offered his beloved Mustang convertible for the distance, to which they responded, grazi molto and addio! An Italian driver and hot American wheels means a fast trip.
David, Michelle, Diego and Nate drove down Saturday night and corralled the Mustang and rode it home, with two amazing pianists going the other direction but anxious to return to showcase their talent. They might even bring their driving gloves and goggles in case a certain engine needs revving up.