New Classical Tracks: An 'Affair' to Remember

by Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
June 11, 2014
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St. Paul, Minn. — Anderson and Roe - An Amadeus Affair (Steinway and Sons)

Can you imagine performing on an organ that's engulfed in flames? Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe — of the piano duo Anderson & Roe — not only imagined it, they did it in the final installment of their "Rite of Spring" video project which you can see on their YouTube channel.

"It just arose out of a creative desire to share this music with as many people as possible in a new way," Liz explains. "And we grew up during the height of the MTV generation. Back in the day, they played great videos by Michael Jackson, Madonna and so on. And just to see all the things they'd do with a simple three-minute pop song — we felt that classical music has so much potential on a visual plane. And on a theatrical plane as well."

You'll find more than 40 of their theatrical videos online, some of which have been viewed more than one million times. You'll also find videos highlighting An Amadeus Affair, Anderson & Roe's latest recording that celebrates their love of Mozart.

"We would say that Mozart is one of our favorite composers," Liz admits. "He has written some masterworks for piano duo that we wanted to explore, particularly his famed sonata for two pianos in D major. That's just such a beautiful and elegant and vibrant piece of work."

"It is a musical conversation," Greg adds. "We made a music video of that one online and we really tried to highlight the dynamic between the pianists through the filming of the video."

"But we were also inspired by Mozart the man and the various sides of his musical and personal character," Liz continues. "So we wanted to see how was Mozart — not only in his humorous context but also the more passionate and romantic sides of Mozart that we've seen through his operatic music — and also this sort of love affair that exists between composers over the years and Mozart, particularly Liszt and Busoni, who wrote those dynamic transcriptions based on his music. So we were inspired by the vast range of emotional and spiritual experiences that Mozart touches upon in his music."

Liz says An Amadeus Affair also features four-hand arrangements by Anderson & Roe. "This is our Grand Scherzo which is based on scenes at the end of Act 1 of 'Cosi fan tutte ,' which means 'all women are like that' — this incredible opera based on mistaken identities and these pairs of lovers," Liz says.

"Our piece begins with the men trying to kill themselves because the women won't have them," Greg adds. "And they take poison, they fall onto the floor and a quack doctor comes in. They wake up, they're delirious from the poison they took, they see blurry images of women in front of them and they sing a love song. The women are charmed and the scene ends with the men trying to gain a kiss from the women. It's mostly Mozart's, but we've made it into something very pianistic. So it's almost like a short concert piece for four hands, 11 to 12 minutes. And we've had to re-format some of the music to be more appropriate and to give us a chance to work with the themes more thoroughly, but otherwise it's faithful to the melodies and the ideas of the original."

Greg says after performing together for 11-and-a-half years, Anderson & Roe can, on occasion, throw one another a curve ball. "There's a lot of trust between us and one of the things we thrive on — we know each other so well, but what makes it so fun for us is that we're two different people. We can have these conversations and be completely spontaneous and trust that we're listening to each other, and that we can react to those musical cues that we give one another in the moment."

Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, of the piano duo Anderson & Roe, are really committed to their mission to make classical music a relevant and powerful force in society. When you see and hear Anderson & Roe, you may think they're moving beyond the traditional realm of classical music; Greg says think again. "You're talking about the current perception of what an artist was," he posits. "But if you look back 200 years, Liszt would have been doing fairly insane things as well throughout the middle of his performances. We don't think of ourselves necessarily as going off the traditional path. We find ourselves being consumed fully by the music."

In the four hands of Anderson and Roe, you'll find yourself completely consumed by The Amadeus Affair.



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