Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lancaster piano duo feted in Budapest

Well known respected duo pianists and the heads of the Pennsylvania Academy of Music, Michael Jamanis and wife Fran Veri kept a busy schedule on Monday and Tuesday, visiting faculty and students at the Zoltan Kodaly and Bela Bartok primary and secondary music schools. They were both very impressed with the dedication of the teachers and the enthusiasm of the students. At Zoltan Kodaly elementary they observed a group vocal lesson employing the theories of vocal instruction developed by the school's namesake, the 19th century Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly. Veri was so impressed with the way the young teacher conducted the lesson she wanted to "put her in her suitcase and take her back to Lancaster."

Monday evening the duo visited the Franz Liszt Academy where they heard the famous Hungarian virtuoso AndrĂ¡s Schiff perform solo piano works by Schubert and Mendelssohn in the main concert hall.

On Tuesday they were able to discuss music education at length with Brigitta Kovacs, the director of the Bela Bartok Secondary Music School, as well as observe a number of individual and group music lessons. The school was kind enough to allow the use of one of the two piano practice rooms Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Wednesday was the big concert at the Budapest Palace of the Arts, widely considered to be one of the world's great music venues. Two nine foot Steinway concert grands were awaiting Veri and Jamanis on stage when they arrived at 3 pm to rehearse before the evening concert.

The concert started at 7 pm and lasted just over an hour. The couple opened the concert with "Variations on I Got Rhythm". Jamanis then performed Rialto Ripples and the Three Preludes, all of which was enthusiastically received by the audience, most of whose members were hearing these pieces for the first time. The two then performed Veri's transcription of An American in Paris, a piece familiar to most members of the audience even though they were hearing it for the first time on two piano.

Veri followed with several excerpts from the Gershwin Songbook, including Lady Be Good, Stairwell to Paradise, and The Man I Love. Both closed with their signature performance of Gershwin's original two piano version of Rhapsody in Blue to enthusiastic applause which quickly morphed into thunderous synchronized clapping, the Hungarian way of demanding an encore.

After two curtain calls Veri & Jamanis obliged their grateful audience (which included numerous high ranking government officials as well as students and faculty from Budapest secondary music schools, as well as a number of prominent local and foreign businessmen and their wives) with a four hand performance of one of Brahm's Hungarian Dances, which won them an additional three curtain calls, at the end of which they were each presented with a magnificent bouquet of flowers by Richard Field, their former student.

After the concert the pianists joined some 200 guests at an elegant reception in the magnificent Glass Room overlooking the majestic Danube where their host offered a toast to Veri and Jamanis, the Pennsylvania School of Music, Zoltan Kodaly, and the prospect of a long term cooperation between the Pennsylvania Academy of Music and Budapest Secondary Music Schools.

Thursday morning Veri and Jamanis were off to Zagreb, Croatia, where they will teach a workshop followed by a short concert to faculty and students of the Zagreb College of Music.