Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss brought an unusual and stimulating program of piano to Hahn Hall on Friday as the second offering of Camerata Pacifica’s 2009-10 season. These two outstanding young pianists are also life partners, recently engaged, and the evening included three works for one piano and four hands, including one by Claude Debussy and two by Franz Schubert, the acknowledged master and most prolific composer in this genre. In addition, Polonsky played solo works by Schumann and Honegger, and Weiss played a solo by Felix Mendelssohn.
Typically, works for four hands were written for the enjoyment of amateur pianists, and as a result they are often less challenging than the piano solo literature. The works written by Schubert in this genre are the exception to this rule. Schubert wrote prolifically in this mode, with an output for four hands that nearly rivals his extensive works for solo piano and voice. The two works by Schubert chosen for the program on Friday exposed the heights of familiarity he achieved in this vein-the Fantasie in F Minor, D. 940 is one of his best-known works-and the adjacent heights of exploratory achievement summoned in Divertissement sur des Motifs Originaux Fran§aise, D. 823. The latter work, which concluded the evening, is nearly symphonic in scope and lasts more than half an hour. Hearing two such superlative pianists carefully construct this vast edifice one can imagine a world of alternatives for the development of 19th-century music. Seated together on the piano bench in Hahn Hall, these young musicians provided an interesting revision of the image of courting couples sharing the work of an easy piece written for amateurs to play at home. Physical proximity, the slight touch of a leg or an elbow-these were the ends toward which music was once a means. With this extraordinary couple, the love on the bench leads deeper into the music, as the music of Schubert itself leads further beyond.