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Behind the music with Francesco Tristano

A classically trained pianist with a unique vision.

Francesco Tristano’s arrangements are critically acclaimed for their virtuosity and creativity. Tristiano shares his thoughts on the Wednesday 2 July program for his Great Performers debut with Alice Sara Ott. Discover his love for The Rite of Spring, a “minimalist work with maximalist proportions”, why Bolero is one of his favourite pieces of the 20th century orchestra repertoire, and his thoughts on arranging such great works for two pianos.

What appeals to you about Ravel? In particular, what made you decide to arrange a celebrated work like Bolero?
Bolero is without a doubt one of my favourite pieces of the 20th century orchestra repertoire. Most appealing to me are its rhythm (Bolero is a dance after all!), and its minimalism − two themes repeated endlessly in alternating fashion, the progression happens solely by means of orchestration. It is a piece very unlike all other Ravel pieces, and it is my favorite Ravel. For some time, I had been playing around with it, and when it was time to set up a program for the tour with Alice, it became clear to me that a 2-piano arrangement would find its way.

What resonates with you the most about Stavinsky’s Rite Of Spring?
Sacre is, I believe, the work of the 20th century – a true scandale. It is the total opposite of Bolero (though the idea of dance is of course very present). Most resonating to me is its massiveness, orchestration, and, again, minimalism. In a way, it is a minimalist work with maximalist proportions. The narrative doesn’t follow a logic, rather it is episodic, chunks of sound following sporadic solos. In our version with Alice Sara Ott, we do not attempt to mimic the orchestra version, rather, we use the piano’s own pallet of sounds and colors and try to “elevate” Stravinsky’s four-hand transcription.

How does Debussy complement your concert program? How does Debussy influence your music?
Debussy was, so to say, one of my first loves at the piano. The program of Scandale being centered around Paris in the 1910-20s, Debussy found its way in quite naturally. Here, Ravel is the arranger, which is another common theme (arguably, all of the pieces of Scandale are versions). In these Nocturnes, our goal is to bring to light the Impressionistic features of the piano sound. It is, in a way, a deep breath before the turmoil of sarcasm and irony of Ravel’s La Valse

Once again, we are very excited to see you perform as a piano duo on stage in the beautiful Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
We’re very much looking forward to performing at your hall. Plus this will be our first performance in Australia!