Arts & Culture
5:30 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Milwaukee Concert to Feature One Piano But Four Hands

Four hand music requires two pianists playing on one piano.
Four hand music requires two pianists playing on one piano.
Credit Miguel M. Almeida/Flickr

The average piano concert usually features one piano, two hands and 88 keys. But an upcoming concert in Milwaukee will add another pair of hands to the equation.

Acclaimed pianist Pavlina Dokovska and associate conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Francesco Lecce-Chong will join forces to present Mozart’s "Sonata for Piano Four Hands" this Friday at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall.

"He wrote several of these sonatas. He's one of the most prolific composers (of four hand compositions) because, of course, he played with his sister and these were kind of party pieces in some ways," Lecce-Chong says. "Actually, Pavlina and I, we've played these at parties."

Though they were written to be fun pieces, four hand compositions do create some challenges for the pianists. The first of which is navigating the physical space: as Lecce-Chong plays the lower part of the piece, his right hand will be right next to Dokovska's left hand as she plays the upper register. Then, of course, he'll have to pedal for both of them.

"You have to be really aware of what's happening in the other part," he says.

Dokovska says it's simply a matter of paying attention to what's written.

"Whether it's four hands, two pianos, or a string quartet, you just do what's needed," she says. "The music calls for what's needed. The composer is your guide and your angel right there."

While the piece may call for the pair to get physically close on the keys, they're already well-acquainted. Dokovska is a professor of music at the Mannes College of Music in New York, where she once taught Lecce-Chong. She says she saw his talent then.

"A real talent is when there is this inner need to improve, inner need to do better all the time," she says. "This is an element of the talent."

For her part, Lecce-Chong says Dokovska changed his life trajectory and always encouraged and supported him in his musical pursuits.

They'll only have a short time to practice together before Friday's concert, but Lecce-Chong is looking forward to their reunion. 

"I love it - I can't wipe the smile off my face when I'm playing four hand music," he says.

The duo will also present the Percy Grainger arrangement for piano four hands of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” They will also perform duets on two pianos, and MSO violinist Margot Schwartz will join Dokovska on what she calls "one of the best pieces in the violin-piano repertoire," Schubert's "Grand Duo." It's all part of  the Piano Arts Signature Event Concert Series.