Dancing Cage - since 2009
John Cage, one of the most radical and influential American composers of the twentieth-century, developed the idea of turning the piano into a “percussion orchestra” by introducing diverse objects between the strings of the instrument. This invention derived initially from his work with dancers, most saliently Merce Cunningham, but also served the creation of purely instrumental works. Remarkable among these compositions is the rarely performed Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos from 1945. For many years, the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo wanted to play this major work, but it was impractical to program along with other repertoire because of the amount of preparations involved (nearly 200 objects including screws, bolts, weatheripping, plastic, rubber, coins, etc.). The project DANCING CAGE is based on the idea to commission composers to write for the two prepared pianos as used in the Three Dances—a chance to revisit the Cage aesthetic and to produce new works with these legendary sounds. New works to accompany Cage’s Three Dances include:
Myzel by Carola Bauckholt (Cologne) Duelocity by John King (NYC) The Land of the Moon by Pamela Madsen (Fullerton, CA) NOMOLL I by Michèle Rusconi (Basel)
and works in progress by Chris Arrell (Boston), Caspar Johannes Walter (Cologne), Sebastián Zubieta (New York), Marcos Balter (Chicago), Allen Shawn (Bennington, VT), Erik Oña (Basel) and others
Amériques Rediscovered – since 2008
In 2004, the Duo was given a recently unearthed manuscript of Varèse’s massive orchestral work, Amériques. The manuscript, in Varèse’s own hand, was an arrangement for two pianos, eight hands. Working comparatively with the different orchestral versions, Helena Bugallo edited the score and the Duo, along with numerous other pianists, have had the pleasure of premiering and performing the work in this new edition. Varèse’s music can be programmed with other groundbreaking works, such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Messiaen’s Visions de l’amen, or in the context of an exploration of new French works (Jolas, Mantovani, Ferrari). It can also be paired, as it is on the Duo’s CD, with the music of his great admirer, Morton Feldman.
Tribute to György Kurtág – since 2010
There is no other living composer so intimately and profoundly connected to the medium of the piano duo as György Kurtág. His own performances with his wife, pianist Marta Kurtág, has led to the creation of over 100 pieces for piano, four-hands and two pianos. Most of these are either original miniatures or highly imaginative transcriptions of the music of Machaut, Purcell, Frescobaldi, Lasso, Schütz and J.S. Bach. In this tribute concert, works of Kurtág from the 1950s to the present are performed, interspersed with works by Ligeti, Schubert, Bartok and others. The Duo will be recording a CD of Kurtág’s music for Wergo in 2011.
Stravinsky in Black and White – since 1999
The Duo has been committed to Stravinsky’s extraordinary music since first discovering, in 1999, the rarely-performed two-piano arrangement of his late twelve-tone piano concerto, Movements, from 1958-59. They have since recorded this piece, along with other arrangements by the composer, including his Septet, Rite of Spring, Three Pieces for String Quartet and Dumbarton Oaks. They are expanding on the project by adding to their repertoire additional Stravinsky arrangements, including his Concertino, Petrushka and Agon. These arrangements are highly effective and revealing, perhaps due to the fact that Stravinsky always composed at the piano. They encourage the audience to experience his extraordinary music in a fascinatingly new way.
Transcription Project: Conlon Nancarrow – since 1998
In 1998, the Duo began a large-scale transcription project of the revolutionary Studies for Player Piano of Conlon Nancarrow. Taking one existing transcription for piano four-hands (Study #15) by Yvar Mikhashoff as a starting point, they arranged—themselves and with composer Erik Oña—twelve additional Studies for piano four-hands, one for two pianos (#44), and one for two pianos, eight-hands (#16). They often perform concerts of the complete works for solo piano and piano duet of Nancarrow. They also organize programs around his music, including works by composers who influenced him (Stravinsky, Cowell, Bach) and who were influenced by him (Ligeti, Williams). Various programs can be designed for one piano or two pianos. The project will be presented extensively in 2012 to celebrate 100 years since Nancarrow’s birth.