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CD Feature/ Duo Hammel - Sanchez: "176 Keys to Europe"

img  Tobias

It’s always good to have a plan - Elena Hammel and Laura Sanchez (who now travel the world under the new name of Duo Scarbo) definitely had one for their second album. Instead of just randomly placing a few favourites and some more obscure pieces of the four handed piano repertoire alongside each other, they have opted for a concept. Where do these “176 Keys” lead to?

First of all to some of the finest moments of European music for 2 pianos. Prejudice against it has never really waned and still today there are several so-called experts who feel totally at ease proclaiming that there are simply no truly relevant compositions in this field. Those sourpusses should prepare to blown away, as this refreshing storm of passion, romance, daring dynamics, playfulness and pure bliss roars through the cobweb-filled ruins of their cliched Classical Music altars. Right from the very start, with the percussive and powerful first notes of Debussy’s Nocturne, the course is set for a journey full of discoveries, exploring Infante’s “Danses Andalouses”, as well as Lutoslawski’s take on “a Theme by Paganini”. Joint first prize, though, goes to the second movement of Milhaud’s “Scaramouche” (delicate and floating) and the Waltz from Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 (smouldering and stirring), which are much more than just pleasant side notes in history.
Secondly, these keys lead to a better understanding of what four handed playing is all about. Of course, it is also about “orchestral textures and ever more complex applications of rhythm, harmony and melody”, as the booklet mentions. What I found rather intrigueing, however, was the fact that the differences with just one piano are far subtler than one would have thought. In the quiet passages, there is more deepness, in the louder passages there is more weight and in the expressive parts in between these two, there are remarkably more shades and colours. If this can indeed be laid down to “discipline and luck”, the duo must both work night and day and sleep on a pillow filled with four-leaf clovers.

Despite being more than an hour long, the album never gets tiresome or self-indulgent. Which, again, has everything to do with it being carefully planed and arranged. Sit down and let go of those silly thoughts and prejudices about four handed piano play - these keys lead straight to happiness.

Homepage: Duo Hammel Sanchez (now Duo Scarbo)

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