Golden Oldie: A Piano Spectacular for 80 fingers

Louise Schwartzkoff

From October 5, 2010

There will be $1.6 million worth of piano on stage at the City Recital Hall on Friday night. With their legs and lids removed for transport, eight Steinway grand pianos will be trucked to the venue.

There they will be reassembled on stage and tuned, ready for eight of Australia’s finest classical pianists.

In The Steinway Spectacular 16 hands and 80 fingers will play some of classical music’s greatest hits.

Conducted by Guy Noble, the pianists will work as an ensemble to perform works by composers such as Ravel, Saint-Saens and George Gershwin. ”It’s a very large affair,” says Noble. ”Logistically, it’s a nightmare.” The piano technician Ara Vartoukian will spend hours tuning the instruments.

For past concerts in Melbourne the process sometimes took all night. ”The pianos all, in essence, sound the same, so they have to be absolutely in tune with each other.”

Even after the most careful tuning, things can go awry.

The pianists – Anthony Halliday, Roger Heagney, Clemens Leske, Tamara Smolyar, Mikhail Solovei, Evgeny Ukhanov, Gerard Willems and Alexey Yemtsov – usually perform as soloists. Every now and again, Noble says, one of them ”goes rogue”.

”One will suddenly break out and play their own thing,” he says. ”I have to herd them back into the pride, glaring at them with eyes of death. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to conduct. It’s like herding cats.”

There is no repertoire for an ensemble of pianists, so Noble has created new arrangements.

His favourite is a rendition of the children’s staple Chopsticks. ”That just goes wild,” he says.

The segment titled So You Think You Can Play Scales is also a crowd pleaser. ”It’s like Piano Idol. People get voted off if they go off the rails.”

Other pieces will feature the organist Calvin Bowman and the soprano Shu-Cheen Yu. Bowman, who usually plays above the stage in a loft, will join the other performers on stage on an electronic organ.

”It’s a relief for him to be down on stage because he suffers terribly from vertigo,” Noble says. ”He’s been terrified in organ lofts all over Australia.”

More boisterous extravaganza than a recital for purists, the performance will appeal to an eclectic crowd.

”We get classical music lovers, as well as people who are just curious. It’s pure fun and enjoyment.”

The Steinway Spectacular is at the City Recital Hall on Friday.

From http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/a-piano-spectacular-for-80-fingers-20101004-164ac.html

August 20 ~ Today in Music History

today

 

• 1561 ~ Jacopo Peri, Italian composer
More information about Peri

• 1882 ~ Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” first performed in Moscow.

• 1885 ~ The Mikado, by Gilbert and Sullivan, opened at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City.

• 1905 ~ Weldon Leo ‘Jack’ Teagarden, Jazz musician, trombonist and singer whose relaxed, melodic instrumental style was highly influential
More information about Teagarden

• 1923 ~ Jim (James Travis) Reeves

• 1926 ~ Frank Rosolino, Musician: trombone, played with Stan Kenton, Harold Land, Bob Cooper, Clarke-Boland Big Band

• 1927 ~ Joya Sherrill, Singer

• 1931 ~ Frank Capp, Musician, drummer with the big jazz band, Capp-Pierce Juggernaut

• 1935 ~ Justin Tubb, Singer, Ernest Tubb’s son

• 1939 ~ Orrin Tucker’s orchestra recorded Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh!, on Columbia Records.

• 1942 ~ Issac Hayes, Grammy and Academy Award-winning American rhythm-and-blues singer, songwriter and arranger

• 1947 ~ Jim Pankow, Trombonist, song writer with Chicago

• 1948 ~ Robert Plant, British rock singer with Honeydrippers and composer

• 1951 ~ Phyl Lynott, Musician: bass, singer with Thin Lizzy

• 1952 ~ Doug Fieger, Musician, guitar, singer with The Knack

• 1952 ~ Rudy Gatlin, Singer with The Gatlin Brothers

• 1969 ~ Andy Williams received a gold record for the album Happy Heart on Columbia   Records.

• 1977 ~ Best of My Love, by the Emotions, topped the pop charts. It had a number one run of four weeks.

• 2001 ~ Frank C. “Papa” Mangione, father of jazz musicians Chuck and Gap Mangione, died  at age 91.
Mangione worked at Eastman Kodak Co., ran a grocery store for about two decades and returned to the photography company until his retirement in 1975. For the next 15 years, he sold music and merchandise on worldwide tours with his more famous son, Chuck, a flugelhorn ace.
A son of Italian immigrants, Mangione’s childhood was chronicled by his brother, Jerry, in a best-selling 1942 memoir called “Mount Allegro: A Memoir of Italian American Life.”
Three of Chuck Mangione’s songs, 60 Miles Young, 70 Miles Young and Papa Mangione, were dedicated to his father.