All stops were pulled out on Friday night at the Duo Piano Recital, featuring professional pianists Katherine Palumbo and Associate Professor of Applied Music Ashlee Mack. They performed a modern program that took the audience through a hypnotizing—and at times nightmarish—musical wonderland.
Lights dimmed to cue the audience’s silence as Mack and Palumbo emerged from the shadows behind the Kresge Recital Hall stage. The dual pianists sat at their respective Steinways and began pounding out the chaotic and unsettling chord clusters of Paul Bowles’ “Sonata.” The energy of the piece made a good starting point for the program, but its lack of melody combined with its overbearing dissonance made the piece jarring and difficult to sit through.
Despite its unconventional nature, the piece was a favorite for junior Kailee Gawlik, a self-proclaimed fan of 20th century music.
“I liked the first movement. It was high energy and really powerful at the same time,” she said.
The second piece was the second movement from Claude Debussy’s “Nocturnes,” which took a satisfying turn towards melody while still maintaining an eerie and unsettling atmosphere.
Another favorite of the night was the world premiere of a piece by James Romig: “Time Seems to Pass.” The performance was a meditative escape from the chaos and discord of the other pieces in the program, with a beautifully open polyphonic texture. The sustain pedal on the piano was kept on for the entire length of the piece. Romig, who was in the audience, was beaming by the end and gave a standing ovation for the performers afterward. It was a favorite of sophomore Leslie Carman, who called the piece “beautiful and minimalistic.”
Following a brief intermission, Mack and Palumbo performed Samuel Barber’s epic finale “Souvenirs, op. 28,” a work with multiple movements associated with different dances. It captured every mood of the night, from the diabolical and mischievous to the solemn and brooding, but still remained upbeat and melodic throughout. Associate of Applied Music Daniel Godsil called the Barber piece “the crowning glory” of the night.
Despite some weaker pieces and an abrupt start, the program was received well by the audience.
“There was a good variety of genres, not all tonal,” Gawlik said.
Godsil was equally impressed with the performance, pointing to the impressively vast soundscapes that were created with such a limited set-up.
“It’s [not easy] to get two pianos together and get it to sound like an ensemble without a conductor,” he said.