It was no ff for fiery furnace, but ff for the startling first chord of Schubert’s Allegro in A minor D 947 that prestigious Piano 4 Hands performed as the first work in their recital for Boston Concert Club last Tuesday. Our valiant Committee were clearly cross and embarrassed that they had not been told that the boilers would be out of action, so the audience felt chilly and more crucially so did Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa, who are Piano 4 Hands. There was considerable hand rubbing needed between pieces!

Waka and Joseph had contrived a programme around the development of music written for two at one piano. During the nineteenth century the instrument became a familiar piece of the furniture played by amateurs as well as professionals. I must say I found it hard to believe that Victoria and Albert, who Mendelssohn famously visited and played for and with, could have attempted the works this couple played for us. There were pieces by Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn, by Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn and a picture emerged of the change from thematic right hand player largely accompanied by the left – piano duet – through more shared thematic and accompaniment to a completely free use of the entire piano. Hence the term “four hands” rather than “duet”. The splendid set of variations by Dvorak, Opus 23 was surely the only way to finish, with its connections to the Schumann family.

This was impressive playing – Joseph and Waka seem completely in sympathy with one another, wonderful ensemble and interpretation.

So good that the vital young page-turner was acknowledged in the final applause. Now this is a nerve-wracking duty especially when it is for two players. Not only must the page be turned, but the music be maintained such that it suits both players.

The programme notes and introductions provided much food for thought. I wonder how many use, as I do, IMSLP online as a free source of scores after concerts?

Brenda Lane