by Gregory King, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College for The Dance Journal
“…old pianos…wrecked pianos”
For the past month, ten old pianos were strewn throughout Philadelphia and Swarthmore; four in Philadelphia and six in Swarthmore. Oddly out of place, they beckoned passersby close to them – if only to tap on their keys. Out of tune and hoary, they offer the duality of being both string instruments (because the sounds are made with strings), and percussion instruments – like a drum (because the strings make sounds when something hits them).
Wooden boxes filled with memories; old memories, wrecked memories.
Memories of Chopin – his music, his life
Devoting himself uniquely to writing works for the piano as a solo instrument or in combination with other instruments, Fryderyk Chopin’s music comes alive with the striking of each chord that lingers after one’s fingers have left the keys. Knowing the pertinence of the piano in his compositions, I was apprehensive as to whether Chopin Without Piano would adequately embody his catalogue of work for which the instrument was paramount.
The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia was dispersed across the stage of FringeArts while looming downstage right was the striking image of the lone piano that was never played.
Lebanese-Polish conductor, Bassem Akiki and Polish actress Barbara Wysocka, entered from behind a closed door to an enthusiastic crowd. They greeted the audience, before going their separate ways – him to direct the orchestra and her, to take her seated place in front of the piano as if preparing to play.
…..a symbol of joy…..a symbol or sorrow…..all in her voice.
He waved his baton, leading the orchestra as they expelled Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11 and she waited with impending fervor before her cue to bellow in Polish.
She was an impressive tour de force.
She ransacked the space with her physicality and I was astounded by her intense vigor as she dynamically delivered her riveting monologue.
Her voice rang, piercing the space with urgency. She recited with rhythm and speed as if imitating the intonations in Chopin’s composition. Comedic, historically poignant, rifted with poetic politics, and at times sad, the scripted blend of Chopin’s letters and music criticism from some of the finest writers and thinkers of our age, provided Wysocka her source. She was an emotional pendulum and the musical flow of her recitation created harmony as she rode on the melodic waves of the orchestra.
Chopin Without Piano took the symphonic inscription, eliminated the piano part and replaced them with a thrillingly melodramatic monologue that surfed the tuneful sails of the well-oiled orchestra. I never missed the piano, instead, a new experience was created and Chopin was resurrected.
So what is Chopin Without Piano? A cerebral re-imagining of classicism done right!
- Dear Philadelphia…. Next Round On Me! - August 17, 2016
- Talia Mason’s Onion Dances: Dancing Memories - July 5, 2016
- A Response to Beyond Dance Company … In Kind - June 30, 2016
- Review: Beyond Dance Company: Not a Girl… Not Yet a Woman - June 28, 2016
- Philadanco II and Pennsylvania Ballet II – 2 gether we Dance - June 21, 2016
- Birds on a Wire Dance Theatre’s HATCH – Words On A Strip of Paper - June 12, 2016
- The Social Sessions: Chapter 1 – Building Homes…..Literally - June 5, 2016
- Saayuja, The Merging – A Celebratory Blend of Bharatanatyam and Carnatic Music - May 10, 2016
- Lela Aisha Jones | Flyground : Native Portals Keeping The Conversation Going - May 5, 2016
- Philadanco’s Global Artistry: Four Choreographers, One Aesthetic - April 23, 2016