Henry Kramer and David Fung, Pianists
Franco Center, Lewiston
Apr. 5, 2019
by Christopher Hyde
Pianists David Fung and Henry Kramer have appeared in solo performances at the Franco Center in Lewiston, but Friday night’s concert marks the first time they have played together, solo and piano four hands The result was a fascinating mixture of classic and modern, with some Impressionism—Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” and a Ravel encore thrown in to complete the mix.
The evening began with a performance by Fung of the Mozart Sonata No. 12 in F major, K.332, which was a highly polished gem. Virtually flawless in execution, it was classic in conception, remaining within Mozart’s characteristic dynamic range, but leaving space for just the right amount of Romanticism. The tempo was also just right, not too fast nor too slow to reveal the composer’s most brilliant ideas..
The first piece for piano four-hands was “Souvenirs,” a ballet suite by Samuel Barber. Barber is best known for his Adagio for Strings, but he also wrote some of the most difficult piano works in the repertoire. “Souvenirs” is no exception, beginning with a ferocious waltz that takes up where Ravel’s “La Valse” ends.
The following Schottische is equally difficult,witty and raucous, but the bluesy Pas de Deux introduces a more tender mood. A Two-Step is far too fast to dance, but the following Hesitation-Tango, heavily influenced by Astor Piazolla, and as dark, would be eminently do-able.
The suite ends with a Galop, which is just what its name implies. Both pianist were perfectly in synch for the piece and seemed to be hugely enjoying themselves setting off the fireworks. Their rendition made we want to see the ballet.
The second half of the program was a bit of a let-down after what had gone before. It is good to hear the entire Suite Bergamasque of Debussy, not just “Claire de Lune,” but I found the other dance forms and the prelude a little too fast. This was especially true of the Passepied, which I imagine being danced more heavily.
And someday, I want to hear Claire de Lune with counted rests.
The final work on the program was the Schubert Fantasia in F minor, D.940 for piano four-hands. It was well played, but sometimes, if I dare say it, Schubert can go on too long, with cadence after cadence, as if he couldn’t figure out how to stop. (Or didn’t want to.)
After a standing ovation came a lovely encore that seemed made for piano four-hands: the “Fairy Garden” episode from Ravel’s “Mother Goose Tales.” After the opening waltz by Barber, it brought the program full circle.
Kramer will return on May 10 for the finale of this year’s Franco Center piano series.
Christopher Hyde is a writer and musician who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org