by Suzanne Daub
According to Eva-Maria, it is all because of the piano.
Eva-Maria Tausig has been an integral part of the Nantucket Musical Arts Society for decades, and her excitement was palpable as she described the last NMAS concert of the 2019 season: a two-piano duo featuring internationally- known musicians Vivian Choi and Fei-Fei Dong, scheduled for this Tuesday, August 20. “This is going to be marvelous! We have two wonderful musicians who also happen to be good friends and will love to play together.”
“A two-piano duo has not been done successfully here in 40 years…[the last time] the performers were wonderful, but the piano needed to be burned… We tried to get other pianos that would match the one we had [a Steinway donated in the mid-1980s in honor of Crystal and Leeds Mitchell by their son], but we really struck out…”
That is, until now: “The second piano [for this concert] was left to the Congregational Church by our friend Adie McAuley, herself a good pianist, and that Steinway has been rebuilt this last winter by the same people who had been taking care of our piano for years.
“We have permission to use it, and it will be moved very carefully on Monday, August 19 to the front of the main nave, to sit nestled close to the Mitchell piano. There they will be tuned to each other in preparation for our very special concert on Tuesday evening.”
Tausig described what is so special about a two-piano duo: “You’ll hear something that is hard to imagine. No two pianos have exactly the same sound. Both pianists are excellent and they are good friends, so you won’t have a competition; you’ll have a symbiosis. They will play wonderful pieces that have not been played in a very long time…[Their playing] will have much more depth, much more melding of the middle voices. The piano in the hands of a fine artist can sound like many different instruments… that is what this will be like. It’s really thrilling!”
The young pianists performing on Tuesday are very well-respected. Fanfare wrote of Australian Vivian Choi: “She boasts an enviably transparent, generally treble-leaning sound that often provides luminous textures… She’s alert to shifts in mood, especially those that come with subtle harmonic shadings.” Born in Shenzhen, China, the “remarkably talented” Fei-Fei Dong studied at The Juilliard School and her playing has been described as “risk-taking rapture… illuminating, poetic.” (Huffington Post)
Tuesday’s concert (doors open at 6:30 pm for a 7 pm performance) is the sixth presented this summer by the NMAS, a non-profit organization that has been bringing superb musicians, many young and up-and-coming, here to perform on Nantucket for 61 years. Choosing the artists, which is done by a “listening committee” located across the US, is “like a juggling act, but it’s a lot of fun…We try to please the Nantucket audience,“ Tausig explained, “we try to choose someone who has won the Metropolitan Opera National Audition Finals… this year we had Thomas Glass…five years ago we had Ryan Speedo Green, a magnificent man with a voice from God…We’ve really covered the waterfront: sopranos, mezzos, tenors, baritones, basses..
“We want them to be superb musicians… masters of their instruments and [we want them to be] verbal enough to talk about what they do and why they do it.” Because Nantucket is an island, performers cannot arrive the day of the concert: “What if the boat is cancelled?” So they arrive the day before, “and that is the reason for our Meet the Artist — it’s a very informal evening” and a rare chance for music lovers to meet and talk with performers. “We sometimes have a very interesting discussion on the music.“
The free Meet the Artist session featuring Vivian Choi and Fei-Fei Dong will be held this Monday, August 19 at 5:30 pm in the Great Hall of the Nantucket Atheneum on India Street.
Tausig’s excitement is infectious, and she hopes that this final 2019 NMAS concert is well-attended by all ages, saying classical music “brings the most diverse groups of people together with a common experience and a common language. Music and the emotions it elicits do not depend on the spoken word, so you don’t need to have a vocabulary in common. You can sit next to someone from anywhere in the world and have the same spine-tingling experience when you hear a great soprano or pianist or violinist.”
Tickets to Tuesday’s concert are $25 ($10 for students)
and are available at the door the evening of the concert or
in advance at the Antiques Depot, 2 South Beach Street.
Donations to the Nantucket Musical Arts Society
to keep vibrant musicians coming back to Nantucket to perform,
are accepted at nantucketmusicalartssociety.org/donate