• Sarah Kwok

Piano for Two! - October 19

Piano for Two!, presented by Muzewest Concerts on October 19, will feature Larry Weng and Wayne Weng in a performance of music for four hands. Read more below in this very thoughtful interview with Larry Weng as he discusses the transformation of a well-known work from its orchestral version to a piano duo, the essence of good chamber music, and his approach to music education.

So, tell me about the show

When Wayne and I started brainstorming ideas for the program, we agreed on wanting to do something that would make a splash, something that is not often played in the realm of four hands repertoire. The first thing that came to mind for the both of us was the Stravinsky Rite of Spring arrangement. In order to balance out the raw power and brutality of Rite, we decided a more genteel first half of exclusively Schubert, for whom Wayne and I both have an affinity. The unassuming boldness of his harmonic language, the incredible lyricism, and the complex spectrum of emotional expression is all on full display in his four hand music, perhaps even exacerbated by the additional element of musical dialogue between the two players.   

Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is so richly scored for orchestra, so I'm interested to hear more about this arrangement for piano duet?

Powerful, brutal, and incredibly kinetic in its original form, the Rite of Spring when played on piano presents some interesting new insights and challenges. Sonorities such as the massive opening chords of the Augurs of Spring, when played on piano, reveals some of the telltale signs of Stravinsky's compositional process. The chords are so perfectly voiced and fitted for pianistic technique that it is hard not to imagine Stravinsky sitting down and sketching these chords at the piano. Other movements, such as the very first of the piece, present an all together different issue. The coterie of bird calls represented by the different wind instruments is especially challenging to mimic and capture with the more or less uniform timbral output of the piano. Further examples of both merit and challenge are littered throughout the piece, and we are very much looking forward to wrestling with them on stage.  

What is it like performing with Wayne? Are you very similar musically?

Wayne and I have been friends and roommates for close to a decade now. This is our first time collaborating in a true chamber music setting. As pianists, we spend much of our time honing our solo craft, which is great, but can get lonely. Being able to play together with a close friend, and create music that we both love is really a wonderful experience. I would say that we have very similar musical priorities, but as in the case with almost any two people, have very different ways of accomplishing those goals. At the end of the day, this give and take, this cooperation is the essence of good chamber music. 

You will also be teaching two masterclasses (in Richmond and Vancouver) while here - how do you approach musical instruction, and what do you want the students to take away from their time with you?

Teaching is such an integral part of every musician's life; it is almost a moral imperative that we pass forward the instruction and the love of music that was instilled unto us. I firmly believe in setting high expectations and goals for students, of seeking for the best that they can accomplish. Students will rise to meet the occasion, and I generally hold my students to the highest of standards. I think that by inspiring and pushing them in a positive light, rather than castigating and shackling them with negativity, teachers are able to not only more efficiently achieve the desired results, but also help develop the inner mental and emotional game of music performance, which at the highest levels are absolutely the determining factors of a great performance. The most important thing that I hope students take away from their time with me is how to ask the right questions, and how to then set in place the right process in order to answer those questions. The ultimate goal of any teacher is to bring students to the point when they no longer need you, and I firmly believe that individual learning, thinking, and problem solving are the most important and critical skills any teacher can impart to their students. 

Experience this exciting program (and the masterclasses!) for yourself in Piano for Two! presented by Muzewest Concerts on October 19, 7:30pm at St. Helen's Anglican Church.

More information: eventbrite

Larry Weng: http://www.larrywengpiano.com/

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