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Angela Cheng and Alvin Chow, New Faculty for 1999, to Perform Duo-Piano on Sunday, April 30, 8 p.m. in Warner Concert Hall

Story by Emily Manzo


Fantasie in F minor, D. 940. by Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

From Hungarian Dances, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
• No. 1 in G minor
• No. 2 in D minor
• No. 3 in F major
• No. 4 in F minor
• No. 5 in F-sharp minor


Scaramouche, by Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
• Vif
• Modéré
• Brazileira

From Dolly Suite, Op. 56, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
• Berceuse
• Mi-a-ou
• Tendresse
• Le pas Espagnol

La Valse, by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)


About the Performers

Duo-pianists Angela Cheng and Alvin Chow will present a program of the music of Schubert, Brahms, Milhaud, Fauré and Ravel on Sunday, April 30, 8 p.m. in Warner Concert Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

Chow and Cheng, both associate professors of piano who joined the Conservatory faculty in 1999, began playing together about twelve years ago, shortly after they were married.

"Duo playing seemed a natural thing to do, both of us being pianists," says Chow. "And the fact that we have had the same teachers for a large part of our education [Sascha Gorodnitzki at the Juilliard School and Menahem Pressler at Indiana University] helps a great deal. We can rehearse quickly and efficiently; not only is there a musical 'shorthand' in that we have a similar musical vocabulary, but we also see and hear things similarly. That doesn't mean we don't have some very interesting 'discussions'!"

The program, a mix of four hands at one piano and two piano works, will include Franz Schubert's Fantasie in F Minor, D. 940, Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dances, Nos. 1-5, Darius Milhaud's "Scaramouche," Gabriel Fauré's "Dolly Suite, Op. 56" and Maurice Ravel's La Valse.

Chow and Cheng agree that "the Schubert 'Fantasie' is one of our favorite works to perform. It is a late work, written a few months before he died. It is also one of the earliest masterpieces for piano duet, full of the lyricism one associates with Schubert, and expresses a wide gamut of emotions. The Brahms 'Hungarian Dances' are probably more familiar in the orchestral version, but we think they work beautifully on the piano as well."

It is not surprising that more than half of the duo's program comes from the plethora of French four-hand music, as French composers, especially at the turn of the 19th century, loved writing in this medium. Chow and Cheng chose from this vast repertoire Milhaud's "Scaramouche," which they describe as "a delightful work with great charm and wit. Some of the material for 'Scaramouche' was derived from music he had written previously for a children's play, and that influence is clearly heard."

The pieces to follow on the program, selections from "The Dolly Suite" by Fauré, "are similarly inspired," says Chow. "This time by a little girl named Dolly, the daughter of a close friend. The individual titles suggest the fantasy play of a young child."

The duo will end the program with Ravel's own transcription of his orchestral work, "La Valse". "It is a challenge to duplicate the colors and sonorities of a full orchestra on only two pianos," says Chow. "But Ravel certainly meets this challenge."

Chow and Cheng feel that the duo-piano repertoire presents many problems in terms of ensemble playing. "First of all," says Chow, "It is the only kind of chamber music where you have to share the instrument, and deciding the pedalling and balancing on a single piano can be very difficult. It certainly develops trust in your partner!"

"We feel that good ensemble playing is like a marriage," continues Chow. "There are strengths and weaknesses, and we have to work together to solve the problems. It is something that we definitely enjoy doing, though. The life of a pianist is often so solitary, and this gives us an opportunity to share with each other in a musical way. The benefits of discussing music -- why we hear something completely different, how we approach musical and physical problems -- these are invaluable to us. Also, now that we have two small children [daughters: Amanda, 4, and Alyssa, 2], rehearsing is a chance for us to be alone!!"

For Chow and Cheng, this performance marks the end of their first year teaching at Oberlin, and both feel "the year has been nothing short of pure pleasure. We have such wonderful colleagues and students, and we feel very lucky to be a part of it!"

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