Duo-pianists Richard and John Conti-Guglia played last night at Maryland University in place of the indisposed Lili Kraus and, while no one will ever replace Kraus, the brothers offered music and playing of the same high quality Kraus always brings her audiences.
They opened with novelties of value and beauty in four folksong arrangements by Percy Grainger. In inventive harmonies and subtle sonorities, these are full of imaginative delights, and the playing was infectious.
The Brahms-Haydn Variations, one of the great staples of the repertoire, was played with notable musicianship and the kind of warmth that was a reminder of the composer's own delight in playing this music with this friends. Next, the Conti-Guglia twins turned to one of the great barn-burners among Liszt transcriptions: the fantasy on themes from Bellini's "Norma." With all the stops drawn, the playing was full of thunder and lightning, the brilliance of which was lessened only because Liszt took the most obvious tub thumping tunes and skipped such beauties as "Casta Diva" and the famous duet.
A novelty by Schubert, the E Flat Minor Grand March was another reminder of how much great literature for two pianos still goes unheard. It is an arresting piece, and the Conti-Guglias filled it with poetry and elegance.
The Second Suite by Rachmaninoff is one of the irresistible works for two pianos. The Conti-Guglias proved that Rachmaninoff on two pianos can be as exciting as on one, provided these remarkable brothers are doing the playing. They are a superb team; it was wonderful to hear them again.