Piano duet makes magic

Twenty fingers race across the piano keys, coming so close together, they threaten to entangle. This is the beauty and risk of the duet One Piano Four Hands.

The Scarborough Bluffs United Church hosted two renowned pianists on Saturday in a feature concert.

Robert Kortgaard and Peter Tiefenbach alternated between slow, haunting melodies and fast-paced crescendos as they performed a classical ensemble.

They shared the piano, sitting side by side, reading from separate sheets of music. The audience listened to the tunes of Mozart’s Allegro and Schumann’s Garden Melody, the cacophony of Stravinsky’s Piano-Rag-Music and the emotion of Ravel’s fairy tales in Ma Mère l’Oye. The pianists performed a few solos amid the duets.

Kortgaard and Tiefenbach describe One Piano Four Hands as a cross between negotiations and “territorial skirmishes” for space.

“It’s like a real collaboration,” Kortgaard said. “We have to respond to someone else’s sounds.”

“It can be a lot of fun,” Tiefenbach added. “You get to make twice as much sound … It becomes like a conversation.”

One Piano Four Hands is a piano duet that is a sort of chamber music. While the pianists won’t ever need to play a note at the same time, they may need to play it in quick succession. That’s where the meticulous collaboration comes in.

The form, however, is uncommon.

“People just don’t do this anymore,” Kortgaard said. “There’s a lot of music written for four-hand piano.”

According to Tiefenbach, One Piano Four Hands was popular as a form of home entertainment decades ago.

“Before the radio, the only way to get music at home would be to play it yourself … It’s kind of a shame that we don’t do this [anymore].”

Kortgaard and Tiefenbach have been playing the piano since they were young children, and have been playing together for 15 years.

Koortgard is a Juilliard graduate who plays in recitals across the world both solo and in collaboration with other performers. Tiefenbach is a performer, composer, writer and broadcaster. The Juno Award-nominated pianist also coaches singers and teaches a graduate orchestral-literature course.

This concert was the eighth the church has held since it purchased a new organ and piano and renovated the building.

The self-appointed four-person concert committee organizes the events to draw people from the community, regardless of whether they belong to the congregation.

“It’s a way of reaching out to the community and bringing people in through music,” Bruce Galbraith, one of organizers, said. “It’s important to be able offer good music to people in the east end … so [they] don’t think they have to go downtown to get a good quality concert.”

Korgaard and Tiefenbach have known Galbraith for about 15 years. They played a concert for him before at a different church. He approached them when the committee wanted to find a way to showcase their two-year-old piano.

Money raised at all concerts goes to the church’s music school, music activities and other church needs.