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Valentina Lisitsa and Alexei Kuznetsoff

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VALENTINA LISITSA AND ALEXEI KUZNETSOFF

It's a compliment to any piano duo to say they play like a married couple. And Ukrainian-born pianists Valentina Lisitsa and Alexei Kuznetsoff, who've been performing together for close to 20 years, have actually been a married couple for more than a decade--though it's tempting to see their romantic relationship as an inevitable offshoot of their extraordinarily intense onstage rapport. The two met at the Kiev Conservatory, matched as duo partners by a revered teacher of the two-piano repertoire. Both have been trained in a Russian style that emphasizes flashy virtuosity and quasi-military discipline, but their musical temperaments are so similar--fiery, confident, with a penchant for explosive percussive effects--that they easily could've developed an aesthetic sympathy without this common background. Though each pays attention to the other's phrasing and dynamics to avoid dominating a performance, they achieve this balance not by holding back but by matching each other's heights. They often gesture with their arms and hands or sway to the music with a synchrony that looks choreographed; their breezy, endearing stage presence makes their teamwork emotionally satisfying, not just technically impressive. Lisitsa and Kuznetsoff made their American debut in Chicago in 1991 and have been back to town often, singly and together; this time they'll tackle four rarely performed 20th-century works. The best known is Bartok's vigorous Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, which calls for split-second coordination in its unison lines and rapid contrapuntal passages. (Percussionists Pedro Carneiro and Michael Green will play timpani, xylophone, and a handful of other instruments.) William Bolcom's Recuerdos, a suite of three Latin dances, evokes in turn the styles of American Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Venezuelan Ramon Delgado Palacios, and Brazilian Ernesto Nazareth. There are also two Russian pieces on the program, naturally: Shostakovich's Concertino for Two Pianos, intended as a showcase for his son Maxim, and Rachmaninoff's craggy, monumental Symphonic Dances. Wednesday, August 15, 7:30 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 312-742-4763.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Iran Issa-Khan.

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