World-touring piano duo Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch perform a sensitive and adventurous set of four-handed and two-piano works on Tuesday, February 16, 7 pm, in the Hop’s Spaulding Auditorium. Along with songful, elegant Mozart and shimmering, Romantic Rachmaninoff, the program includes three diverse, captivating 20th-century works.
The pianists, a married couple, both enjoy robust international solo careers, and Pinkas is the Hop’s pianist-in-residence and performs regularly at the Hop. Their duo concerts are a special treat, addressing lesser known gems of the piano repertoire, and displaying deep sympathy and musicality.
“The Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo was absolutely superb in its execution of this extraordinary piece, exhibiting a unanimity of ensemble rarely heard,” The Intelligencer of Philadelphia wrote of a past performance. Wrote the Boston Globe, “Both Pinkas and Hirsch are tasteful, imaginative, and skillful players with a highly developed sense of sonority and articulation, and their ensemble playing is both instinctive and experienced.”
The Hop concert includes two better-known works, Mozart’s 1781 Sonata in D Major, KV 448 (375a), for two pianos and Rachmaninoff’s 1893 Suite No. 1 (Fantaisie-Tableaux for two pianos), Op. 5. The Sonata is Mozart at his most gallant and entertaining, but with a finely crafted classical structure. The movements of the Fantaisie form a succession of moods, from dreaminess to love, tears and—in the finale—joy.
In addition, the duo play 20th-century works heard less often: the 1915 Sonata for Two Pianos in one movement by Erwin Bodky (1896-1958), a German-American music scholar who escaped Nazi Germany and became a Brandeis University-based champion of early music; the 1943 Divertimento in Ancient Style by Sergiu Natra (b. 1924), a Romanian-born Israeli composer; and 1958 Concerto for Dancers by Joseph Horovitz (b. 1926), a British composer and conductor who also fled his homeland (in his case, Austria) to escape the Nazis.
The Hirsch-Pinkas Duo was born many Valentine’s Days ago with a Hop concert conceived as a one-time duo event. Their audience’s enthusiasm convinced the two, already married though pursuing separate careers, to continue their collaboration. Pinkas and Hirsch made their European debut at the Officina Musicale Scotese in Abruzzo, Italy, and have since toured Nigeria, China, Southeast Asia, Russia, Italy, Bulgaria and Israel, Vietnam and, most recently, the Philippines. Other credits include performances for Monadnock Music, Music Ninety Eight at the Cincinnati Conservatory, Kfar Blum (Israel), Pontlevoy (France) and PpIANISSIMO (Bulgaria).
They have performed most of the masterpieces for the genre, including works by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Ravel, and Bartók as well as such rarely heard works as Messiaen’s Visions de l’amen and Milhaud’s La création du monde. The Duo has collaborated with, and recorded the works of American composers Daniel Pinkham, Peter Child, Thomas Oboe Lee and Kui Dong for the Arsis, Albany and Otherminds labels. Their close friendship with George Rochberg (1918-2005) culminated in the commission of his monumental Circles of Fire for two pianos, which the two premiered and recorded for Naxos, along with three more discs featuring Rochberg’s solo piano works. The Wall Street Journal praised their “exquisite performance” in their recording of Harold Shapero’s Four-hand Sonata, recently released on the UK label Toccata Classics.
Experienced educators who are popular with young musicians, Pinkas and Hirsch enjoy interacting with their audience and encourage presenters to schedule master classes and open rehearsals in conjunction with their concerts. A professor of music and pianist-in-residence at Dartmouth, Pinkas holds degrees from Indiana University and the New England Conservatory, and a PhD in Composition from Brandeis. She has recorded solo works by Schumann, Fauré, Debussy and Christian Wolff for the MSR, Musica Omnia, Centaur and Mode labels. Chamber music releases include works by Gaubert and Martinu (Naxos) and Piano Quartets by Fauré (MSR). She frequently appears with the Adaskin String Trio, and is a member of Trio Tremonti and Ensemble Schumann.
Hirsch, an active recitalist and chamber player, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY Purchase and a Master of Music from New England Conservatory. In addition to teaching piano and chamber music at Brandeis, he has taught at Dartmouth and has been on the Adult Education faculty at the New England Conservatory. Hirsch has performed with many contemporary ensembles throughout New England, and has recorded for New Albion, MSR and Arsis. His most recent release of Selections from Vingt Regards by Olivier Messiaen (MSR) has garnered critical acclaim.