If as a young artist you are lucky enough to be signed up by DG you can be assured that your career will be shaped and packaged by probably the slickest publicity machine in classical music. DG have certainly struck gold with these two; not only do they look like they just stepped out of the American Apparel catalogue, but they can play - in all senses of the word. I have followed Alice’s solo career for a few years now. She has an impressive virtuoso technique (how many young pianists would choose the Liszt Études d’exécution transcendante as their second album?). Francesco is new to me.
Both artists are interested in cross-over projects in the world of Jazz and it was a clever move to pair them up for a two-piano album of transcriptions of twentieth century orchestral works entitled Scandale. This tour is effectively a promo for the album, although the first piece on the programme, Francesco’s transcription of Ravel’s Bolero, isn’t there, which is a pity because it is a very clever transcription which captures the slightly tongue-in-cheek feel of the original, and has a very demanding part for Alice with bars and bars of spread chords in the right hand.
The two-piano transcription of Ravel’s La valse was edgy and had wonderful dynamic range. I have no idea why they use a combination of one Steinway and one Yamaha but the sheer volume that these two stick-thin pianists can create on two instruments is almost terrifying.
I said play in all senses of the word. These two artists have a very informal take on the classical musical concert in their appearance, demeanour and easy relationship with the audience. Some of the playing is outrageously over the top and the recital is sometimes a bit too much of a circus act -Francesco likes to use his feet to stamp a percussion track at certain moments. And the sight of two pianists swapping pianos by each carrying their own piano stool, one in bare feet and the other in leather boots is not something you see in the concert hall every day.
But the second half which was devoted entirely to the original two-piano version of The Rite of Spring was devoid of any gimmicks and allowed this extraordinary music to speak for itself. This was a very impressive performance, one which managed to show every thread of every intertwined melody and counterpoint, perhaps with more clarity than you get with the orchestral version.