A recital for two pianos

Throughout the ages, music has inspired people. It is perhaps one of the oldest forms of media, but that does not make it primitive.

UVU hosted Jeffrey and Karen Savage, a couple from Washington state On Oct. 23. They were invited to UVU because of their work in various professional settings and their award-winning status. The musicians were playing on two separate pianos. This is a rare practice these days.
“There is actually a long-standing tradition of two-piano music, dating back to the 19th century,” Jeffrey Savage said. “The score has both parts written on it, but in order to make the page turns more manageable — and after we truly know the other part — we do cut the other part out.”

The two pianos are built to catch echoes, one can hear the other’s echo across the first’s strings, but the instruments are still perfectly in sync. Although there were times when the sounds of the pianos seemed to dissonantly trip over one another, it never sounded wrong. As the music turned darker, the couple “argued” elegantly. The Savages themselves stroking each key with rapid, yet gentle succession. When the argument is over, a slight grin toys at each one’s lips as the notes to rise to a playful, upbeat, climax; but it remains just out of reach as the music demonstrates its endless affinity at topping itself.

When the first song ended, Karen Savage stood and introduced the next tune.

“This song is meant as a distraction,” she said. She told the story of a man and his friends imprisoned by Turks and how the song is a signal to his captured friends. The song would feature several feuds. “Feuds are written to show you just how talented the composer is, and the ones in this piece are monstrously difficult.”

As the tune lilted into being, it was obvious that it was a distraction. It sounded too strange not to be. As one side played a rapid whisper, the other banged loudly. When the initial scene was done, the vibrato became more like a wisp of spirit, unable to be grasped. The opposing notes were plucked somberly. There was a silence before a sword fight seemed to take center stage. One piano sang a mocking, satirical tune, while the other bided its time, increasing in pace and difficulty. The two tunes grew closer and closer until one seemed to stomp on the other’s toes. There is no victory, however, only what sounded like teardrops falling on to the ivory keys. It was not long before some dark, enticing counter greeted it, somehow cacophonous and beautiful. It was an eerie sound, one that reminds a person of nightmares.

The song ended and Jeffrey introduced the next score, “The next piece was written to sound like an orchestra. This is not uncommon in piano, and it is because piano can create those same shades of sound.”

“It sounded triumphant to me; victorious,” said Hayden Jones, a junior biology major. He was in attendance with his wife, Lisa. The couple enjoyed themselves despite the fact that it was required for his music course. His wife was there simply because she enjoys classical music.

When the recital was over, Hilary Demske, the piano director at UVU, said, “they were in town for a performance at BYU and we generally snag them while they’re here for our own students.” She was glad to see the recital well-attended.

“We’ll be doing more soon to celebrate the new arts building,” Demske said. In fact, she noted that she would be playing a piece for the building’s dedication that had been written by a choral professor.

Karen Savage thanked UVU for hosting them and said, “We really enjoyed sitting in on the students’ classes. It was wonderful. Keep doing exactly what  Professor Demske says. You’re marvelous.”

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