Review: Four hands and one rare delicacy

Share Canberra's trusted news:

IN AN ERA where age is a dirty word, it is a pleasure to report on an important musical event involving both youth and age.

L. Cook, r. Sitsky
Adam Cook, left, and Larry Sitsky.
For in “Four Hands”, the eminent composer, teacher and – let it not be forgotten – pianist, Larry Sitsky, cast his mantle upon one of his most talented students – Adam Cook.

The concert was, as Sitsky remarked, his idea, to be viewed as a kind of farewell present to Cook, who leaves at the end of the year to study in France on the proceeds of his share in the Michael Kieran Harvey scholarship. Mind you, Sitsky added, “for a present, he had to do a lot of work”.

Although his concept may have been what Hamlet called “caviare to the general”, it was a rare delicacy indeed to the many lovers of piano turned up to see what happens when two contrasting artists play as one.

The evening began with Liszt’s devilishly difficult “Les Préludes, after Lamartine”, the first of several “poems for orchestra”, transcribed for two pianos by the composer himself.

In this performance, Cook seemed initially to play a harmonising part to Sitsky, But this was an impression quickly dispersed as the pair moved into “Fantasie für eine Orgelwalze”, KV608, written originally by Mozart for a ‘mechanical clock organ’ but transcribed by Ferruccio Busoni for duo pianos.

There followed Poulenc’s “Sonate pour piano a quatre mains”, FP8. This mischievously conceived piece could easily have been devised by the composer to compute confusion for two pianists sitting at one piano,  potentially creating a traffic jam at the keyboard, though one  that Sitsky and Cook generally managed to avoid.

It was no surprise to learn that Sitsky had made himself an expert on the music of Busoni, as he explained to those present. The  finale was a mighty 35-minute representation of Sitsky’s augmented and edited version for two pianos of Busoni’s “Fantasia Contrappuntistica”.

It was in this large-scale work that the capacities of master and student – Sitsky and Cook – were both stretched and perfectly balanced. It was Cook’s clever idea to project slides taking us through the work, for even though this was a special audience, it made demands on the concentration.

In his prefatory remarks to the final performance, Sitsky suggested that those present would have very few opportunities in their lifetime to hear this work.

That seemed to be an  understatement in a rare,  fine evening of  music.



Who Can You Trust?

In a world beleaguered by spin and confused messages, there's never been more need for diverse, trustworthy, independent journalism in Canberra.

Who can you trust? Well, for more than 25 years, "CityNews" has proudly been an independent, free, family-owned news magazine, serving the national capital with quality, integrity and authority. Through our weekly magazine and daily through our digital platforms, we constantly and reliably deliver high-quality and diverse opinion, news, arts, socials and lifestyle columns.

If you trust our work online and believe in the power of independent voices, I encourage you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support will be invested back into our journalism so we can continue to provide a valuably different view of what's happening around you and keep free.

Click here to make your donation and you will be supporting the future of journalism and media diversity in the ACT.

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Previous articleFlawless performance wins piano competition
Next articleReview: Pianistic bliss in Wesley concert
Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

Leave a Reply