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The Labeque Sisters at the Symphony

On Monday, April 7th, 2014, the Labeque Sisters Katia and Marielle performed pieces composed by George Gershwin, Philipe Glass, and Leonard Bernstein. Compositions performed included Gershwin's Preludes for Two Pianos: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso, Andante con moto e poco rubato, and agitato; Glass's Four Movements for Two Pianos; and Bernstein's Music from "West Side Story" for two pianos and percussion: Prologue, Jet Song, Something's Coming, Rock Blues, Mambo, Cha Cha, Maria, America, I Feel Pretty, One Hand One Heart, Tonight, Somewhere, Cool, A Boy Like That, I Have a Love, The Rumble, and Finale. George Gershwin (1898-1937) composed piano miniatures he called "novelettes". In January 1925, Gershwin started a new notebook "Preludes", the beginning of twenty-four short piano pieces to be titled The Melting Pot. During the same year, contralto Marguerite d'Alvarez requested Gershwin to play the accompaniment in her New York recital. Gershwin did not only agree to accompany her at the recital, but he also performed three of his new Preludes.

Philipe Glass (1937) composes music which contrasts greatly with the style for the twenty-five years after the Second World War. This style is the "fragmented, ametric, harshly dissonant post-Schoenberg music". Glass's style, minimalistic music, is supposed to sound beautiful. It is usually immediately accessible to all listeners, just like Glass's music.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) is most famous for his musical "West Side Story". Choreographer Jerome Robbins introduced the idea of West Side Story to Bernstein in 1949. Robbins saw it as a modern adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet".

I did not find the program well balanced or organized. There was no sense of variety at all. The pieces were different and were written in different styles, but here was still some sort of feeling of repetition. The feeling of repetitions was caused by the massive amount of American Music. I believe that the Labeque Sisters chose the path of least resistance for their repertoire and this I found slightly ruining the whole experience. Percussionists  Gonzalo Grau and Raphael Séguinier performed music from "West Side Story" with the sisters. They would step away from their drum sets every so often to do something silly and then come back. These moments were very amusing despite being completely out of place.

Gershwin's Three Preludes for Two Pianos were performed very enthusiastically and artistically but I found this performance as  a mere warming up of the stage. The great emotional surge came during Four Movements for Two Pianos, the rhythmic energy with the driving tones leading the audience into the next movement with great anticipation. Music from "West Side Story" I found tiring. I have always enjoyed this music sung or performed by an orchestra. Never have I had the opportunity to hear it performed by two pianos. At first it was very exciting, but towards the middle I grew tired and wanted something new to happen. My boredom was tossed to the side when percussionists Grau and Sèquinier joked about on stage. The touch and color of both Katia and Marielle blended together firmly harmonious music.

The encore of the recital included a woman dancing to the Labeque Sisters' playing. I found this also amusing, but awkwardly out of place. The overall impression on the audience was a good one. I left Symphony Hall with a good air and a light mood.


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