by Harry Rolnick
THE husband-wife team of Alvin Chow and Angela Cheng have made quite a name for themselves in the United States as a piano duo and their fame attracted a large crowd here last weekend.
Their reputation proved well deserved, even if the art of the piano duo is virtually impossible to achieve.
Why impossible? Because the players must be individually talented, yet blend in with each other.
With such an emotional harmony, they can never be mutually subordinate, but at the same time, can hardly go off on their own tangent.
Cheng and Chow are individually splendid, as they showed in their solos. But as duo-pianists, they had a special flair.
The obvious fireworks were in the Ravel finale La Valse. But the real challenge was the beautiful Schubert F Minor Fantasy. One of the most touching, tragic and beautiful works for any ensemble, the Fantasy has a main theme as tender as any Mozart.
Cheng and Chow began stiffly, carefully, perhaps without feeling. By the centre of the work, they began to relax. Toward the end - with that miraculous cathedral-like ending - the two were able to overcome the paradox of playing together yet separately.
The other works - a Poulenc sonata played with uninhibited joy, and two rather moribund Dvorak dances - showed their talents well.
The highlight of the evening, though, was George Crumb's Christmas Suite, played by Alvin Chow. The repetitions, quotes from medieval carols and varieties of sounds created a vortex of timeless prayer, and Chow played it with devotional care.
Alvin Chow and Angela Cheng, pianos; City Hall Theatre, January 28