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Keys to the Future piano festival: Preview Evening 2 Wednesday, March 26 8PM

The Keys to the Future festival, at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall, presents 3 consecutive nights of recent solo piano music – each concert features 4 pianists. The fundamental premise of this festival is that the contemporary scene is characterized by unprecedented diversity, and that that is a good thing. On these poly-stylistic programs, sometimes the only thing that two given pieces on one of our programs have in common is that they are notated and contemporary. I prefer this to a concert of works all in the same style – when a post-minimalist work follows an atonal modernist work on the same program, they tend to highlight characteristics in each other in interesting and unexpected ways. Audiences have really responded to this aspect of the shows.

On Evening 2, Amy Briggs Dissanayake, David Friend (winner of our first young artists competition), Stephen Gosling and I will play works of Chester Biscardi, Hans Otte, David Rakowski, Martin Kennedy, Charles Wuorinen, William Bolcom, John Musto, Elena Kats-Chernin, John Halle and Derek Bermel. Now a few words about a couple of the pieces.

Pianist Amy Briggs Dissanayake has become the leading new music pianist in Chicago, and is a great performer and protégé of Ursula Oppens. On the first half of Wednesday’s concert, she will play four etudes of David Rakowski. She has recorded two CDs of them, and is about to do a third. Two of them marry jazz styles (stride piano in “Strident” and bop in “Bop it”) to harmonies that sound post-Schoenbergian. One of them (“Plucking A”) has Amy doing all kinds of things inside the piano – in addition to occasional notes played normally on the keys, it exploits, in an eerily beautiful way, harmonics, plucked strings, and stopped (or muted) tones, in which one hand damps the strings near the pins while the other strikes the keys. The fourth Etude (“Martler”) is about hand crossings, and makes a stunning musical and visual effect on stage.

On the second half, Amy will close the concert with five contemporary ragtime pieces by Bolcom, Musto, Kats-Chernin, Halle and Bermel. All five of these talented composers take the basic ragtime concept in five different directions. Derek Bermel’s “Carnaval Noir” is summarized by the composer as “Ragtime meets South American street fair.” This set will be a lot of fun, and will cap a very diverse program – Otte’s piece combines minimalism with improvisatory elements, Charles Wuorinen’s “Bagatelle” is quiet and haunting, and the rest…well, hopefully you will see and hear for yourself. For more detailed info, please check our website Hope to see you at the shows! Please look for some notes on Evening 3’s program in a day or two…

Joseph Rubenstein
Artistic Director, Keys to the Future