Jerome Kuderna & Jed Distler, piano duo
Gustav Mahler, transcr. Kurt Woss Symphony No. 9
Making their first Bay Area joint appearance in 25 years, the acclaimed virtuoso Jerome Kuderna and New York-based composer, pianist, critic and radio host Jed Distler join forces to perform a rarely heard piano duet arrangement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. It takes seasoned artists to scale down Mahler’s prodigious orchestration to keyboard dimensions, yet still convey the music’s textural, expressive, and emotional extremes.
Reviewing their recent series of Mahler 9th performances in the catacombs of Brooklyn’s historic Greenwood Cemetery, New York Classical Review’s George Grella wrote, “The two treated the myriad variations in tempo one would hear from an orchestra for the kind of clear-edged, highlighted articulation the piano can produce. Distler and Kuderna provided a superb view of the structure of the Ninth. The Ländler was bouncy and sunny, the Rondo-Burleske built up to the frenzy one hears from great orchestral performances. In fact, the concentration was strong throughout, and even inspired.”
Jed Distler says: “I’ve always loved playing through orchestral and operatic repertoire in duet arrangements with my pianist colleagues. It’s the kind of musical activity that we tend to do for ourselves, or for a small circle of friends, and is less about performing than sharing.
“Granted, 88 piano keys cannot replicate Gustav Mahler’s extraordinary orchestration and genius for instrumental color. And since Mahler’s originals can be heard all the time in concert and on recordings, why play the Ninth Symphony publicly? For the simple reason that the music works well on the piano. In pianistic terms, Mahler’s contrapuntal acumen and rich harmonic language make a pointed, intimate, and idiomatic impact, losing little in translation. Both Jerome Kuderna and I discovered this when we gave the rarely heard Kurt Woss four hand transcription its first New York concert performance this past summer. We are grateful for this opportunity to present its San Francisco premier tonight.”