Duo-Ridenours Deliver Delightful Performance
What a pair! The Ridenours, Rich and Stacy, graced Eicher Auditorium with their enormous skills last Friday, at the Sarasota Music Club’s February meeting. He of the outgoing and enthusiastic stage presence and she of the self-effacing, introverted mien, both pianists of great ability, kept the full house totally engaged and wanting more. The program consisted of standard works (for band, orchestra or soloist) that Rich has arranged for piano, four hands, inelegantly known in music circles as ‘four buns on a bench.’
Stacy hardly spoke, while Rich blustered, but we all could see that, with the slightest nod, she could cut him down to size, almost a Molly and McGee of the concert stage.
They opened with the Star-Spangled Banner, arranged in the over-the-top style of Franz Liszt. A 19th-century pianist/arranger of prodigious skills, Liszt himself could hardly have done better than the grandiose harmonies and ornamentation that Rich provided. We in the audience were torn – was this our National Anthem, or was it a Grand Overture? Should we stand, hand over heart, or sit and just enjoy? Most of us stood, albeit awkwardly, as the music rolled on longer than we expected.
No awkwardness for the rest of the program, as the Ridenours sailed through a series of listener favorites by Copland, Bernstein, Gershwin, Puccini, Brahms, Piazzolla, Joplin and Sousa. I suspect they would have enjoyed the even greater sonority of two grand pianos, but we would have missed seeing the four arms and four feet intertwined as they played over, under and through each other to reach the right keys on the one keyboard. The ‘choreography’ required is similar to the footwork of the Olympic pairs-skating we are currently enjoying on TV. The physical proximity is so intricate that, if they were not so already, after a program like this, they would probably have had to get married...
My favorite of the morning was their show-stopping version of Mussorgski’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.” In his best huckster imitation, Rich tried to sell us (“Only $69.95...and wait, there’s more...!) our own set of virtuoso-sticks, with which we could perform this grand music without having to do all that boring practice that seems to plague wanna-be musicians. Rich handed the sticks, one at a time, to Stacy; she boldly played huge chords (each of which would have needed eleven or twelve human fingers simultaneously), and then she nonchalantly flipped the used-up stick back over her head, to be caught by a nimble Rich. In testament to his years at Juilliard, he never handed her the wrong stick! As when I saw it before, she never cracked a smile, and I rolled on the floor with laughter...
You never know what you will hear, the third Friday of each month in season at the Sarasota Music Club, you just know you will enjoy it. Barbara Chertok, program chairman this year and next, will make sure you do. Long may she wave!