Marvelling in Poulenc's style
By Josh Grunmann
The past few weeks have heard the sounds of piano teams reverberating throughout campus in various performances. Tonight will see the next in this series, with the UWO orchestra, featuring the duo-piano team of Yanchus and Hibbard, playing at Alumni Hall.
This superb husband-and-wife piano duo has established itself in London as first-rate pianists and teachers, producing several prize-winning pupils and attaining a rank with other concert artists of the highest level. They last performed at Alumni Hall back in 1985, where they received an enthusiastic standing ovation for exhilarating performances of works by Lutoslawski, Ravel and Gershwin. This time they will play the wonderful two-piano concerto by French composer Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963).
Tina Yanchus studied at the Juilliard School of Music with Jacob Lateiner and her husband Jim Hibbard studied with Reginald Bedford at the Royal Conservatory. In 1972 they were married and, recalls Hibbard, "We performed the Poulenc concerto with the Brantford Symphony. It was the first piece we performed as a duo."
Since then, Yanchus and Hibbard have performed across Canada, have been broadcast on CBC Radio, are regularly invited as adjudicators to competitions and are guest artists every summer at the summer music festival in Kincardine, Ontario.
Yanchus and Hibbard's repertoire ranges from Bach to Hibbard's own transcription for piano duet of Gustav Holst's The Planets. The tradition of transcription writing and the imitation of orchestral sonorities typical of duet repertoire is prevalent in two piano compositions, but "unlike the duet repertoire, two-piano repertoire has also always been intended for the concert stage," Hibbard says.
Poulenc's piece typifies the aforementioned aspects of two-piano repertoire. "Written in 1932, it was first performed by Poulenc and his friend Jacques Fevrier in Milan," Hibbard explains. "Poulenc was influenced by the sounds of instruments from the Far East after hearing a Balinese gamelan orchestra in Paris."
The concerto is a marvelously effective concert piece combining Poulenc's inimitable satirical mimicry, the style of popular Parisian chansons, sporadic Prokofiev-like dissonance and neo-classical references to composers such as Mozart.
"It's very light-hearted music and a lot of fun to play," Hibbard says. "We are very glad to be playing it with the UWO student orchestra and Jerry Summers, whose conducting we admire."
The other works on the program are Nielsen's Helios Overture, Beethoven's Leonore Overture no. 3 and the Romantic Symphony by Howard Hanson.
OVERTURE, LIGHT THE LIGHTS. THIS IS IT, THE NIGHT OF NIGHTS. There won't be any Looney Tunes tonight, only classical mastery as Yanchus and Hibbard play Alumni Hall