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Ludwig Van
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Concert appreciation: Pianists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung at the Aurora Cultural Centre

By John Terauds on April 12, 2013

Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung introduce their programme at the Aurora Cultural Centre on Friday evening (John Terauds phone photo).
Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung introduce their programme at the Aurora Cultural Centre on Friday evening (John Terauds phone photo).

The Aurora Cultural Centre, born inside a late-19th century public school, has been programming classical music concerts since 2010 — and the opportunity to hear husband-and-wife piano duo Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung together and separately was the ideal excuse for a trip to the prosperous town 45 minutes due north of downtown Toronto.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Friday evening’s concert left a good impression all ’round, from the handsome, carefully renovated venue and intimate performance space to the two very engaging guests of honour.

In 2010, the Centre bought a Yamaha C7 grand piano to help draw performers to the space. For Bax and Chung, the piano was placed on a small raised stage, in a traditional proscenium setup.

The anchor for the evening’s programme was Bax’s own transcription for piano, four hands, of Igor Stravinsky’s Petroushka ballet suite.

In his introduction to the concert, Bax explained how he had fallen in love with Petroushka as a 9-year-old — and had a dream come true when Chung offered to play the four-hand part with him.

(He didn’t make it clear whether this had anything to do with their decision to get married.)

Seeing this orchestral music condensed into something for four-hand piano showed off its own intricate choreography as overlapping hands, fingers and elbows made for an entertaining display of coordination.

Bax and Chung played with spirit, displaying not just a remarkable technique, but an uncanny way of staying in perfect lock-step with each other.

The second half of the evening featured more Russian music, as Bax played two popular solo pieces by Sergei Rachmaninov, Chung played two pieces each by Alexander Scriabin and György Ligeti, and then the two returned to sit side-by-side to play tangos by Astor Piazzolla, each freely embellished with improvised harmonies and filigree.

Throughout, Bax and Chung revealed themselves to be capable, musical and engaging artists, generating a warm buzz in the roomful of 150-or-so people.

I discovered shortly after I arrived that classical guitarist and record producer Norbert Kraft and his wife and close collaborator, keyboard player Bonnie Silver, are the sponsors of this concert series in Aurora. Silver also told me she was the one who had pushed for the purchase of the concert piano.

I had a quick chat with Silver at intermission, and she is clearly enjoying this new dimension in her professional life. She is also happy to have brought some fine classical music to a smaller town.

As she explained, once a person has arrived home after work, it is not always easy to contemplate heading out on a 45-minute or 1-hour drive to Toronto for a play or concert. So she and husband Norbert are helping to bring great artists to this eager and supportive audience, instead.

Not all great concerts have to happen right in the centre of the big city.

To find out more what’s going on in Aurora, click here.

John Terauds

 

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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