The Block

“Dueling” grand pianos and percussion featured in unusual Block program

Muskegon, Michigan, December 17, 2018 – The Block is known for featuring the piano, in part due to the exquisite quality of its restored 1970 Steinway B grand. But an upcoming concert will pair two pianos—along with a large battery of percussion instruments—as Principal Percussionist Matthew Beck and several colleagues present Bela Bartók’s groundbreaking Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion.  Held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 19, the program will also include This is the World, a 2009 tone poem by David Maslanka. The Block is located at 360 W. Western Avenue in Muskegon.  For tickets, call 231.726.3231 or visit theblockwestmichigan.org.

Bela Bartók is a familiar—not to say dreaded!—name for all young pianists due to his ubiquitous set of 153 progressive student pieces titled Mikrokosmos.  But the Hungarian émigré was also a groundbreaking 20th century composer who infused his music with folk melodies collected over decades of research and travel in rural Eastern Europe. A masterful pianist, Bartók was the first to fully embrace the instrument’s percussive qualities—as this work reflects.

In this performance, Matthew Beck will be joined by his WMS percussion colleague Andrew Spencer. Their pianist collaborators are MSU professor Patrick Johnson and CMU professor Alexandra Mascolo-David.  Beck and Spencer will play seven instruments between them: timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, tam-tam and xylophone.  Bartók provided precise instructions for placement of the instruments, and his score includes details like what part of a suspended cymbal is to be struck with what type of stick.

Opening the program will be David Maslanka’s piece, the full title of which is This is the world we know, the world of air and breathing and sun and beating hearts.  In contrast to the percussiveness of Bartók, the music is spacious and expansive.  According to the composer, “The overall feeling is one of quiet awe at the nature of our world, both the planet on which we live, and the amazing web of life that it supports.”  The famous Nighthawks painting of Edward Hopper, showing a group of silent, isolated figures at the bar of an American diner, is foundational to the whole piece.

Single tickets are priced at $25 for regular seats, $35 for table seating. Students with ID will be admitted for $10. To order, call 231.726.3231 or visit www.TheBlockWestMichigan.org.

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