By Elizabeth Gosney
Two pianos, four hands: a thousand possibilities in sound. An eclectic repertoire of pieces has been chosen by The American Piano Duo to be performed this Saturday with Brigham Young University”s head of keyboard studies, Jeffrey Shumway, as one of the two contributing artists.
Shumway and Del Parkinson, professor of piano at Boise State University, came together in 1984 to create The American Piano Duo, according to the group”s biography. They first met while attending the Juilliard School of Music. With more than 25 years of playing together, the two men have learned how to quickly and effectively put difficult pieces together with professional results.
“You have to have enough trust and friendship to give and take,” Shumway said. “[You have] to be willing to let the other person take the lead for a while or give suggestions back and forth.”
The opening number by George Gershwin is an old favorite of the two performers, while the majority of the program consists of pieces never before performed by the duo.
“We don”t ever play anything we don”t love,” Shumway said.
The program for Saturday”s performance includes a wide variety of compositions, from George Gershwin”s “Cuban Overture,” to Gustav Holst”s “The Planets.” Each piece was arranged especially for two pianos and four hands, which guarantees a unique sound unlike that of a single piano or even a whole orchestra.
“The textures can be fuller; you can have more complexity of the voices,” Shumway said. He said if people love piano, the versions being performed on Saturday might even be more enjoyable than the orchestral arrangements.
Robin Hancock, a piano professor in the BYU Music Department, plays with Shumway in another piano ensemble, The American Piano Quartet, and holds Shumway and Parkinson in high esteem.
“They”re two of the best pianists in the Western Region, if not the whole United States,” Hancock said.
Hancock said everyone leaves with a smile on their face after hearing the popular and engaging pieces performed by the duo.
Shumway explained that each of the featured composers he and Parkinson will perform has a unique style.
Claude Debussy composed with what Shumway called “wonderful color,” which coincidently posed the greatest challenge to the pianist. Instead of relying on different instruments in an orchestra for color, the pianists used dynamics, voicing and timing. Shumway described Rachmaninoff as having “sweeping, arching, Hollywood style … which will pull at your heartstrings.”
For any who fear a boring and serious show, Shumway reassured just the opposite: a fun concert filled with compositions as they”re rarely heard, with four hands and two pianos.
“There”s something for everyone,” Shumway said.
The free concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Madsen Recital Hall, HFAC.