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Butler ArtsFest: Masterpieces for Two Pianos

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A program including the description of a stroll through the zoo, the legend of a prankster and showcasing the manipulation of the inner guts of a piano fit well in to this year's Butler ArtsFest theme of Fables, Fairy Tales, and Physics.

First were chamber arrangements of two large orchestra works, Camille Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, and Richard Strauss' Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks.

Butler music faculty member Frank Felice provided narration for the Saint-Saens using whimsical, amusing verses by Ogden Nash. The music got off to a rocky start, and took a while longer to get fully in the groove, and was plagued throughout by sloppy playing and intonation issues, particularly in the upper strings.

The arrangement of the Strauss was much smaller - simply for violin (Larry Shapiro), french horn (Gail Lewis), clarinet (Shawn Goodman), bassoon (Doug Spaniol) and double bass (David Murray) - but still lacked a certain something in translation from the large orchestral original. In addition, there were errors littered throughout; nearly everyone was guilty of them, making it a disappointing part of the program.

But George Crumb's Music for a Summer (Makrokosmos III) for Two Amplified Pianos and Percussion ended things on a high note. Pianists Kate Boyd and Anna Briscoe worked like mad musical scientists with their fingers on the ivories, and actually inside their pianos, while percussionists Jon Crabiel and Heather Sloan sang, struck, and bowed their intricate parts, all coming together for a well executed, intense finish to the concert.

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