The new release from the Quattro Mani is aptly titled “Re-Structures.” Steven Beck and Susan Grace restructure the concept of a piano duo, making it more of a keyboard duo. And that’s an important distinction.
The program features works for two pianos as bookends. Paul Lanksy’s brisk and brief “Out of the Blue” opens the set, while Ofer Ben-Amots’ “Tango for the Road” closes it. Both are refreshingly original works for a traditional piano duo.
Poul Ruder’s “Cembal D’more” is a dialogue for harpsichord and piano. This set of eight miniatures explores the sonic differences between these two instruments. Beck and Grace are each playing different types of keyboard instruments, both with slightly different technical demands.
Tod Machover’s work “Re-Structures” pays homage to Pierre Boulez. Machover reworked music from his two pianos series, “Structures,” and added live electronics. The resulting piece is an exciting journey that moves past the sonic world of just two pianos.
The oldest work on the album is also the most challenging (and not just for the listener). Lebenslauf (Életút), op. 32 by György Kurtág is for two pianos and two basset horns. The pianos are tuned a quarter-tone apart. The tension between the two instruments gives the work its energy.
Susan Grace and Steven Beck are not just accomplished performers. Their chemistry makes the Quattro Mani work — and work well. “Re-Structures” is an adventurous program. And I think it succeeds in expanding the scope of what two pianists can do.
Quattro Mani: Re-Structures
Steven Beck, Susan Grace, duo piano
Works by Paul Lanksy, Poul Ruders, Tod Machover, György Kurtág, and Ofer Ben-Amots
Bridge Records 9496