On Tuesday, Feb. 16, husband-and-wife piano duo Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch perform works by Mozart, Rachmaninoff and lesser known 20th-century composers Erwin Bodky, Sergiu Natra and Joseph Horovitz. We sat down with Sally to ask her five questions.
What changes when for you when playing as a piano duo as compared to playing solo?
I’m not the boss. That is the whole difference between solo and chamber music—it means I have to listen to what my partner is doing to get the totality of the piece. It matters what we’re both doing, not just what I’m doing; I’m just a part of the total sound. So it’s a very different thing, that the concept of the piece is much larger than just myself.
What inspired you to choose the 20th century works in your program?
Evan was called upon to play some Bodky pieces about two years ago and became very interested in it because the music was very beautiful. He contemplated doing a recording project and asked me if I would mind doing it as a piano piece. He did the rather arduous task of transcribing, as it was written on manuscript and totally unreadable. I love exploring new stuff that I’ve never heard before and making it come to life, so I’m looking forward to it.
The Natra was something I initiated because Natra used to be my teacher. I’m thinking of doing a disc of his work and I haven’t played his music in a long time, so when I looked at this, it looked to be a wonderful piece to put at the beginning of the program. Horovitz is a dear friend in London and we’ve wanted to do something of his for a while. These three unknown works are premiers—two of them world premieres, one an American premiere.
Is there a singular emotion or thought you try to channel to your audience in your performances?
No, it’s different for each piece and how I’m trying to convey the piece. I have the sense of the piece, the sound, in my head. The performance on Tuesday will be particularly interesting because we have played the Mozart and Rachmaninoff more than once, but have never played the other pieces. Because these pieces have never been heard before, it’ll be an adventure. It’s something else if it’s a piece that everyone’s heard before, but it’s your first time. Then you’re still nervous but there’s still a collective consciousness of the piece. There’s no collective consciousness of the new pieces we will be playing, so that’s cool.
If you could be any type of piano, what kind/model would you be?
If I could be a piano, I favor German instruments so I might want to be a Blüthner. It’s a piano you don’t encounter a lot here [in the US], but it’s an old German instrument and it actually doesn’t sound like a piano. It has a very sweet sound.
Who started the tradition of the Valentine’s Day concert tradition, you or Evan?
I think it was a long time ago. We were already married at the time and were working with a programming director who became a very dear friend of ours, Colleen Jennings, when she asked us, “Why don’t you play together?” We had never done so before since we were each doing our own thing. So we said, “Okay, why not?”
People thought it was the cat’s meow so we just kept doing it, and it just so happened to occur around Valentine’s Day. What I do remember is that we had a different music staff back then and someone made a cake in the shape of a piano. The music department did a big party afterward and I wore a 40’s dress that belonged to Evan’s mother. It was beautiful and the performance was just a fun thing to do. And then it stuck.