John and Julie Cheek
Talk about dueling pianos. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra got its 2004-05 Masterworks series off to a thrilling start with selections from two great symphonies and a brief but dazzling performance featuring a pair of piano-playing siblings born in Little Rock.
Julie and John Cheek's “Playing Cheek to Cheek” program at Robinson Center Music Hall last weekend marked the first time the two have played piano together with a full orchestra. But during Sunday afternoon's performance, it was as if the Cheeks and the ASO had been long-time bandmates.
But before the Cheeks took the stage, the orchestra
delivered pianist Franz Liszt’s “Les Preludes.” The ASO’s trumpets and strings guided the moody symphonic poem to a big finish after a tumultuous opening, its themes swirling and overlapping to dizzying effect.
Later in the afternoon, the ASO presented Johannes Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98,” a 45-minute piece that begins and ends on a minor chord — a risky move when Brahms wrote it in 1884-85 — and featured great turns by the ASO's flutes and trombones.
The real fireworks appeared when the Cheeks and the ASO unfurled Francis Poulenc’s joyous “Concerto for Two Pianos in D Minor.” The piece lasts about 20 minutes, but the pianists' graceful, often frenetic playing seemed to compress time, making the performance fly by, despite meditative, lyrical detours led by Julie Cheek during the second half of the “Allegro ma non troppo,” the piece's first
section. ASO conductor David Itkin’s expert trumpet section, which shone throughout the afternoon, deftly sparred with the Cheeks' keystrokes, creating a fascinating interplay among the three.
The Cheeks and the ASO showed that you didn't have to endure a smoky bar to hear a pair of first-rate piano virtuosos go at it in downtown Little Rock last weekend. But you did have to dress up a little.
The Public Theatre of Little Rock began its 2005-06 season with “Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill,” a voyage through the German composer’s musical catalog. And, while the remnants of Hurricane Rita rumbled through the city during the Saturday show, it w
Little Rock will next week host a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems led by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change.
Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte.