Works for two pianos are comparatively rare and the chance to hear two contemporary works for them rarer still. Today, in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre we got to do just that. The program consisted of John Adams’ 1996 Hallelujah Junction, which i have heard a few times before, and Hans Thomalla’s 2004 piece Noema. Both composers were there to introduce there works.
I like Hallelujah Junction. It has a kind of repetitive driving, rhythmic and melodic intensity that build on the fragments of the word “hallelujah” to a kind of almost traditional resolution. Noema is harder to get into. The pianos are prepared so there’s a range of microtones employed as well as the conventional 88 notes. Thomalla said the work is built up from fragments of canonical piano études with other sounds added. This may well be true but, if so, the fragments are very short and hard to recognize. The effect, then, is of a rather random soundscape which is often quite interesting and occasionally quite beautiful but which doesn’t leave all that much of an impression.
Both works were brilliantly played by Ryan MacEvoy McCullough and the diminutive Claudia Chan. The latter’s sheer physicality was amazing given how small she is!