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Duo courts keyboard danger PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Friday, 01 February 2013 11:02
Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson bring piano act to BGSU (Photo provided by the artists)
A piano bench isn’t very large.
Certainly not when two grown pianists are perched together in front of the keyboard.
And when their limbs are set in motion on something as wildly primal as Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” accidents are likely to happen.
Just ask Elizabeth Joy Roe, who with Greg Anderson forms the Anderson and Roe Piano Duo.
“We have actually collided in performance,” she said in a recent telephone interview.
“I hit Liz in the eye with my elbow,” Anderson admitted.
The blow bruised her, but she kept playing.
They like that sense of danger in playing piano four hands, though they also appreciate the greater expanse that playing on two pianos give them.
“I prefer playing on one piano because... the raw emotional, the combative elements of the music are really stressed,” she said.
Part of the appeal of piano fours hands is to “emulate the fancy footwork” of dancers, and “the spirit that anything can go wrong,” Anderson said.
That’s why they play the “Rite” on one piano even though the composer arranged the legendary ballet for two pianos.
“Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth” of the ballet will be on the program when Anderson and Roe perform Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall. Tickets are $12 to $38. The Festival Series concert is in conjunction with the David D. Dubois Piano Competition sponsored by the College of Musical Arts that weekend. (See accompanying story).
Both came from the Midwest — Roe grew up in Chicago and Anderson in Lake Elmo, Minn., where cows grazed across the road from his house. And both came from families that valued art, so they started playing piano early, and soon fell in love with it.
Because  “classical music was such a powerful force in our upbringings,” Roe said, it makes them all the more driven “to fit this music into the world around us.”
They started performing as a duo after they met as freshmen at the Juilliard School in New York City. They celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first performance in November.
“It was not premeditated,” Roe said. “It evolved organically.”
“Musicians who are good friends try to find ways to play together,” Anderson said. “It was electric from the beginning. The friendship began it all. That’s what’s so lovely, what makes it so joyous.”
Most piano duos they encounter, he said, are either a couple romantically connected or siblings.
Anderson and Roe are just good friends.
Not that they don’t tease out a certain sexual tension in some of their videos.
The videos are playful, often humorous pieces of art in their own right that capture the duo’s sense of daring, and earned the duo millions of hits on YouTube.
“Our videos,” Roe said, “tend to bring out the color and energy and illustrate the dialogue that’s happening between the two of us.”
That interest in adding a visual art dimension to their work has been present since the beginning. They did the posters for their inaugural recital, one for each piece on the program, according to the blog on their website.
Their videos cover the range of their repertoire.
Classical music has a rich tradition of compositions for two pianists, Roe noted.
They will delve into that at BGSU with W.A. Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Pianos in D major.
The program is also replete with their own arrangements of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango.”
Also on the program is music by Radiohead and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Anderson likened the duo’s take on “Billie Jean” to the way Picasso would create a portrait of a friend.
He said he picks up some facet of the music to focus on. In the case of “Billie Jean,” he said, “we were inspired by Michael Jackson’s incredible rhythmic precision.”
“The music is speaking to us and guiding us in fashioning these mutations,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that in the end “Billie Jean” comes off sounding more serious than “Papageno,” their light-hearted rendition of tunes from Mozart’s “Magic Flute.”
This range of musical reference mirrors the eclecticism of contemporary life.
Whether Mozart or Radiohead, Roe said, the music needs to be approached with an open mind. “The music will only come to life if you treat it as a living entity.”

Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2013 11:18

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