Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo

February 18, 2018 @ 3:00 pm
PianoForte Studios
1335 South Michigan Ave
IL 60605
Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo @ PianoForte Studios


Mendelssohn (1809-1847), “Andante and Allegro Brillante”, op.92

Allegro Brillante in A Major is written for one piano four hand and was dedicated to Clara Schumann. The first premier was in March 1841 in Leipzig one week after completion of the piece. The first performers were Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. Andante is a singing work and reminds Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words for solo piano. Allegro has a very opposite character. It is exuberant and bouncy with playful staccato patterns and with composer’s familiar scherzo-style brilliancy. The atmosphere alternates with a lyrical and singing secondary theme.  The Allegro Brillante never fails to bring a friendly smile. When Mendelssohn wanted to publish both parts in 1851, a publisher left out the Andante. The Andante was published only in 1994.

Rachmaninoff (1870- 1943), Suite for Two Pianos # 2, Op. 17

The Suite for Two Pianos, Op. 17, was one of Rachmaninoff’s first works after the three-year near-silence after the failure of his First Symphony in 1897. Rachmaninoff completed it in April 1901. The work manifests confidence and power from the start. The opening March with is orchestra-like use of piano registers precedes a sparkling Waltz.  In the second movement Rachmaninoff integrates the parts for the two pianos so that they can hardly be distinguished. During the middle of the Waltz, a long-lined romantic melody pounded out in chords over a flowing accompaniment.

The third-movement Romance is very lyrical and introspective. However it grows into the impassioned central climax to revisit the expressiveness of the Waltz’s middle section. The last movement, Tarantella, an Italian dance whose crazed rhythms were once thought to cure the bite of a tarantula. Here, Rachmaninoff is giving us a finale that demands staggering virtuosity from both players.

Rachmaninoff along with his cousin and teacher Alexander Siloti premiered the work on November 24, 1901, at a concert of the Moscow Philharmonic Society.


d. Falla (1876-1946), Two Spanish Dances from Opera La Vida Breve

Regarded as the greatest Spanish composer of the 20th century, Manuel De Falla had a distinctively nationalistic style. One of his earliest surviving works, La Vida Breve is 2-act opera written in his local Andalusian dialect, although it was quickly translated into French.  Manuel de Falla depicts the timeless themes of unrequited love and class inequality. Salud and Paco are lovers, but he agrees to marry a girl of his own richer class, Carmela. The wedding takes place, observed, from the street, by Salud. Her uncle Sarvaor offers to entertain the wedding-guests and Salud comes forward to accuse Paco, before falling down dead. De Falla’s opera is set in Granada and includes a series of dances.

Schubert (1797-1828), Fantasy in F minor, D. 940

Schubert wrote an unusually large number of piano duets; clearly the form had special significance for him. Part of the vogue for duets in Vienna was due to the rapid progress of technical developments in Viennese piano making. Composers and players were anxious to exploit the new sonorities – and four hands could release more exciting sounds from these pianos than two. More importantly, however, duet playing was one of Schubert’s most treasured social pastimes. In his early days, he was music teacher off and on for some years to Count Esterházy’s daughters. Duets were one of his favorite teaching techniques; he played Secundo, keeping the basic pace and rhythm stable while the pupil took a more challenging Primo part. An impressionable young man, he soon became besotted with Caroline, at 17 the youngest daughter. Differences in social station and her indifference to him as other than a valued teacher meant that she became his ‘immortal beloved’, his consequent unrequited love being a constant source of pain for the rest of his short life.

In 1828, his last year, an increasingly ill Schubert, realizing that his syphilis had passed into the mortal final Tertiary stage, wrote a number of stunning masterpieces. The Fantasy in F minor D. 940 for piano duet is one such, written only a few months before his demise. It has been said that he held a hopeless passion for his pupil, the Countess Karoline Eszterházy, but the only work he dedicated to her was his Fantasy in F minor. It seems to be an intimate outpouring of the composer’s feelings about Caroline and machinations of a cruel world which had kept them apart. Very broadly a whole sonata compressed into a single movement, this is one of Schubert’s most inward and profound utterances. One can visualize Schubert and Caroline sitting once more at the piano as his music speaks to her.

Gavrilin (1939-1999), Pieces from Ballet “Anyuta”

Valery Aleksandrovich Gavrilin is the distinguished Russian composer, whose talent is widely considered to be brilliant and original. Gavrilin’s music wins the hearts of listeners by its natural melodic sphere, modern and still national coloring, sincerity and deep heartfelt compassion to the people’s troubles and aspirations. This music is joyous and serious at the same time, it’s smiling and sad, and it’s intimate and noble. Among 60 pieces for piano for two and four hands Gavrilin composed 4 ballets, 38 theatrical plays, 11 movies, and many other compositions.

Ballet «Anyuta» on Gavrilin’s music in 1983 was awarded with « The Gold Prize» at X All-Union television festival, and in 3 years at the stage of San Carlo in Naples it was called the best performance of the year in Italy. The Ballet is based on one of Anton Chekhov’s stories, “Anna Round the Neck”. The story is about a young woman, Anna, who marries a rich man to save her family from poverty. The wealth didn’t make Anna happy. There is a human transformation between a young loving her family girl and a woman who finally forgets her own family.