Zofo lives up to the hype, kind of

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Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi… lived up to the hype, but the music did not.

Music / “Zofomoma”, Zofo—the 20-Finger Orchestra, Llewellyn Hall, Tuesday, May 28.

ONE piano sounding like an orchestra might be a huge claim but the performers Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi together on that one piano lived up to the hype – the music did not.

ZOFO is shorthand for 20-Finger Orchestra (ZO=20 and FO=Finger Orchestra). So two pianists, one piano. The concert was joined together between the screening of the fifteen artworks and musical pieces with Nakagoshi’s rendering of Mussorgsky’s pictures at an exhibition, which was the most interesting music of the night.

After a short interruption to the visual display on the large screen, the impressionist music of French composer Gilles Silvestrini’s music was played by the duo following the artwork titled “Le Bassin d’Argenteuil” by Claude Monet. The music did a good job of matching the look and feel of this artwork with its note-filled and expansive, flowing music.

The pianists swapped positions for every piece by wandering around the stage looking lost and then returning to the piano. This quickly grew tiresome. The reasoning for this extended manoeuvre was lost on this reviewer.

Almost all the music was atonal, dissonant, and from the schools of complexity and serialism. The kind of music that university music school still persist in teaching though the majority of the public do not like it or listen to it. That said, many of the pieces fitted the imagery quite well. So the two went hand in hand for the most.

The players are quite extraordinary in their piano skills and have an inbuilt knowledge of what each other is going to do. They move like they were joined at the hip and their piano mastery is unquestionable.

Some pieces had the players plucking strings from the heart of the piano and dropping things on strings to create some unique sounds that again, aligned with what was showing on the screen. They got into all sorts of positions to perform this complex music. One piece requiring Zimmermann to stand over Nakagoshi and play around his body, offering the look of one pianist with four arms.

The final and perhaps the best piece of the night, titled “Viajeros” (Travellers) by Cuban composer and pianist Keyla Orozco after the artwork of the same name by Douglas Pérez’s Castro, also Cuban, was based on a motif from a Russian song that the composer used to sing as a child. This piece had the most impact of the night and had the player’s performing an amazing full keyboard glissando slide from the bottom to the top of the keyboard as they moved in between and over each other.

This concert was also to demonstrate the musical repertoire of the 20th and 21st century. It was a pity that only composers who have written in a similar style were commissioned. Many of the pieces were indistinguishable from each other.

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