In a rare treat for classical music fans, South Surrey’s internationally-renowned Bergmann Piano Duo – unseen by local audiences for months – will return with a live, distanced performance Saturday, Nov. 8, at 3 p.m., at Langley Community Music School’s Rose Gellert Hall (4899 207 St.).
For more than two decades, musical and life partners Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann have been winning kudos – and numerous international prizes – for dynamic and energetic performances of uniquely eclectic programs, in duo recitals and with a multitude of ensembles and orchestras around the world.
Known for their creative spark, awe-inspiring technique – and frequently light-hearted interaction – the pianists enjoy taking audiences on exciting journeys into both classical and popular repertoire, often including at least one new original composition and/or arrangement.
The new concert of four-hand pieces – Back on the Bench with the Bergmanns – will also be the opener for a new 2020-21 series of ‘Concerts Cafe Classico’ at the school.
The performance will be ‘close-to-home’ in all regards for the couple – Elizabeth is artistic director for LCMS, while Marcel is composer-in-residence at the school (the couple also serve as artistic directors for the large-audience White Rock Concerts subscription series, currently suspended due to the pandemic).
The concert, like others planned for the season, will be completely physically-distanced, and presented to a very small audience in the spacious hall, with full COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
Some summer concerts by others at the venue this summer successfully tested the waters in this regard, they said.
“As an audience member I felt very secure, and taken care of,” Elizabeth said. “In many ways I feel safer going to a concert like this than going to a restaurant.”
The couple told Peace Arch News it’s exciting to be performing a live program again, among the first they have been able to do in some seven months (they have only just returned to the road for a distanced concert in Nanaimo and small-scale performances at the Evergreen Cultural Centre and the ACT in Maple Ridge)
Not that they have been idle – for much of this year they have kept busy with some online video collaborations produced under COVID-19 restrictions, including a four-and-a-half-minute, two-piano composition by Marcel called Constellations, incorporating a solo performance by an interpretive dancer, for which they received a Canada Council grant.
Both also found that adapting their teaching in piano technique and composition to online lessons could suggest new and valuable ways to use technology, while pandemic restrictions gave Marcel a chance to devote more time to composing and arranging.
“He was hunkered down in the studio,” Elizabeth said.
“I have such a big list of things I want to do – there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t even played yet,” Marcel noted.
“There’s lots of stuff I don’t even know about,” Elizabeth laughed.
“Very often you’re writing furiously, at the last minute, for an upcoming concert,” Marcel said. “This year it’s been just the opposite.”
“Now I can’t even make a joke about it for the audience anymore,” Elizabeth added.
The new concert is planned as an upbeat, inspiring program of playful and energetic pieces, they said (for those who prefer a virtual concert at this time, a similar program by the duo, Bach on the Bench, will be offered digitally by Surrey Civic Theatres on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. – for more information, visit surrey.ca).
“We wanted to uplift people,” Elizabeth said. “We wanted it to be a feel-good concert.”
These include a set of rarely heard duet variations by Ludwig van Beethoven (their nod to the composer’s 250th anniversary), as well as pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, and some Spanish and Latin music – plus two new arrangements by Marcel.
One is an aria by Bach and the other a version of Lecuona’s famous Malagueña, he explained.
“The aria is a really beautiful, contemplative piece,” Elizabeth observed.
“I actually heard it first on radio when I was driving,” Marcel said. “It was presented as an oboe concerto. It’s a gorgeous piece, but I’d never heard it before. I researched it and found out that someone had made an oboe concerto out of three different movements that came from his Cantata No. 170. So I thought I have to make a version of that for us.
“We also included Grieg’s popular Peer Gynt Suite – Grieg himself made the four hands version – and added two other romantic favourites to the mix – Chabrier’s sprightly España and Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle,” he said.
“The Gottschalk is this crazy, salon-style music,” Marcel said. “Our repertoire includes a lot of meat-and-potatoes pieces so it’s fun to play something very fun, very fluffy.”
“Fluffy but difficult!” added Elizabeth, sardonically.
In addition to the Bergmann concert, the upcoming Concerts Café Classico Series lineup will include West Coast Chamber Music (Jan. 24); The Vancouver Cello Quartet (Feb. 21) the Rose Gellert String Quartet (March 7); Tour de Force with the Fringe Percussion Ensemble (April 25), and the Aurora Piano Trio (May 30).
Because of highly limited seating, tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available at the door.
To reserve tickets, call the box office at 604-534-2848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the full names of yourself and any household members/ individuals in your bubble who will be attending.
Single tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for students. For priority seating, a full season subscription (six concerts) is available at $102 for adults, $92 for seniors and $59 for students.
For more information, visit langleymusic.com