Notes for a Music Review
A hockey fight broke out on the keyboard last Saturday afternoon at Bradley University by the Wizard of the Wired Box, the Professor of the Pluperfect, the Man with One Red Shoe. Massive conflagration as the pianist battled the keys for control of the music. It was touch and go for a while, with each adding their own insights into the piece.
I know why the Charles-Valentin Alkan Symphony for Solo Piano, Op. 39 isn’t heard very often. It’s a Beast of a Piece, and John Orfe was a Tour de Force at the piano. Orfe nailed that bad boy to the keyboard. Every. Single. Note. The tonalities! The sonority! The polyphony! Each movement left the audience agog, aghast, ajar and open to wondering how in the world the next movement could possibly top this. And yet it did. And Orfe did.
No grass grows on the Allego of the vast and great first movement. Orfe mowed it clean. The second movement’s Andantino was al dente — chewy, not overdone, perfect. Memorable Minuet in the third, full of gobsmacking energy. Presto digitalis on the fourth by the Flying Fingers of Fury, Thor’s rumble and thunder with his eighty-eight hammers. Orfe revved up his Harley and took this movement roaring down the road. He ended with a leap into space, physically sprung by the intricate inner workings of the piece, knocking back the piano bench.
Then the Dynamic Duo of Orfe and Andrea Molina, another talented pianist at Bradley, took on the Bartok Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2. This piece stirs together neo-Baroque counterpoint, neo-Classical proportions, and neo-Romantic expression, and seasons it with resonances of cimbaloms from Hungary, gamelans from Indonesia, quasi-operatic recitativo devices, and tone-clusters from American experimentalists Ives and Cowell. Bartok stuffed this bird with enough to delight and challenge the mind, ear, and heart.
Molina played all the orchestra parts on one piano while Orfe served up his delights with accoutrements on the second. What was the main course? Where were the appetizers and garnishes? What was the dessert? They were all there, and they were all good!
This is what the fox says.