The Concerts with Commentary series featured duet compositions for two pianists, performed by two professors in the music department. graphic by Emma Palmer

TU professors perform “Four Handed Piano” compositions

Professors Allyson Eskitch and Dana Fitzgerald Mahler played a diverse program of duets.

On March 5, TU’s Music Program presented “Just Duet: Music for Four-Hand Piano” as part of their Concerts with Commentary series. The duet was between two highly accomplished piano professors, Allyson Eskitch and Dana Fitzgerald Maher. With their background in piano studies and their extensive repertoire both in Tulsa and across the United States, their musicality shone through the pieces. Through the silence of the hall their performance spoke the loudest with the interweaving melodies and anchoring harmonies. As they immersed in the music, concentrating on their portion, Eskitch and Maher were a mirror image of each other. They knew the pieces by heart.

The first duet performed, the “Petite Suite” from Claude Debussy (1862-1918), consisted of a set of character pieces which are pieces that have a story, yet are connected to each other in order to make a musical plot. The set correlated within itself; the pieces depicted nature and the movement of the human body, setting the tone of impressionism. This was evident in the names of the characters pieces: “En Bateau,” “Cortège,” “Meunet” and “Ballet.” As both pianists were playing individual parts, it synched together so impeccably that it sounded like there was one combined pianist instead.

The next piece played was “Vier Klavierstücke zu vier Händen” by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847). Though the translation of this title is “Four Pieces for Four Hands,” it sounded more like a piano sonata. Its continuous movement going into the following piece, the set blended well together with the slight breaks in between. As the set progressed, the pieces blended seamlessly. With the musicality in each part of the duet, Eskitch and Maher captured the notion of Romanticism.

The surprise of the concert was a composition from Maher. Aside from being a pianist, she is an accomplished composer. The piece, titled “Four Fables for Piano,” was unique. Although it was a set, it could stand alone or pair up with another piece as a fun commentary or introduction to a performance.
The other pieces segued into each other, that without the entire set it would be confusing for the audience. Like the Debussy suite, it was programme music. The music painted a picture of a simpler, rustic time. The piece moved, guiding the audience from tenderness, humor, and wholesomeness all with mischievous twist. “Four Fables for Piano” was entertaining as the plot unfolded musically, with its main image of nature and innocence. Like the previous sets, the piano was the ultimate commentary for the concert. The duet was a voice, acting out the different melodies, yet firmly holding the consonant harmonies.
The final piece was “Dolly, Op. 56” by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). The set of pieces felt more an art song arrangement composed for piano than it did a duet (as most did it feel for the other sets). Eskitch and Maher highlighted the beauty of each piano work carefully. With their individuality on the piano, they easily connected with “Dolly, Op. 56,” making it the most soothing piece in the concert.
Though this was the title of the performance, after hearing the music resonate through Meinig Recital Hall, it should have been called Astounding Synchronized Movements on the Piano. As both Eskitch and Maher switched hands, and occasionally lead piano roles in the music, they always were intuitive in listening to each other, taking their time in order for the audience to hear the beauty. As the concert was for four hands, they completed each gap, creating a complementing sound, making it a wonderful way to close the Concerts with Commentary series.
The next concert will be on April 16, with the TU Jazz Ensemble.

Post Author: Karelia Alexander