Generations of university music majors have cut their teeth on Walter Piston’s iconic “Harmony” text. It’s a great book but not the best way to get to know and understand Piston’s music. The program of his piano compositions that Igor Lovchinsky and Jonathan Coombs brought to the Phillips Collection on Sunday, however, did a pretty good job of this.
Piston, who died in 1976, was prolific in almost every instrumental medium but the solo piano. For that instrument, he wrote only a few pieces — two short works, “Improvisation” and “Passacaglia,” a piano sonata and a concerto for two pianos and orchestra that, in 1967 under the urging of duo-pianists Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz, Piston arranged for just the two pianos. Stecher and Horowitz organized this concert and were on hand Sunday to talk about Piston’s music.