The last time I went to an event at the Lied Center for Performing Arts was way back in March of 2016. At least, that was the case until I saw the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet perform on Wednesday night, Feb. 21.
I took interest in the event when I heard the group was performing a new piece by film score composer Danny Elfman. Elfman wrote the piece specifically for the quartet, and this was the first time they performed it.
Knowing the type of composer Elfman is, I knew I had to be there.
When I arrived I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’d never really gone to an event like this. I walked in, found my seat and the first thing I noticed, aside from my being underdressed, was the sense of community amongst those in attendance. It was clear that everyone was just there to hear some great music and have a good time. I sat down and immediately found myself talking with my neighbors about Elfman’s work and what we expected from the evening.
The quartet took the stage at 7:30 p.m. and quickly began playing their first selection.
Over the course of the evening the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet played four selections. They started with Franz Schubert’s “Adagio e Rondo Concertante D487.” They followed that with Josef Suk’s “Piano Quartet, Opus 1 in A Minor.” At this point in the performance, the quartet premiered Danny Elfman’s new piece. Then after a brief intermission, they closed the show with Johannes Brahms’s “Quartet Opus 25, in G Minor.”
Each of the pieces had its own vibe, which helped keep the quartet’s performance from getting repetitive or boring.
Opening the evening with Schubert was a smart move, because it introduced the audience to the members of the quartet and what they could do very well. By the time they moved onto the arrangement by Suk, the audience already had full faith in the players’ abilities. Each player had their own chance to shine and show their individual skills in “Opus 1 in A Minor.”
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the premiere of the new piece composed by Elfman. When that point in the show arrived, the entire audience was buzzing with excitement.
Neither Elfman’s piece nor the quartet disappointed.
Right away in the piece’s first movement, “Ein Ding,” it was apparent that Elfman had scored it. It had that fun quirkiness that many have come to expect from his scores such as “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
The second movement, “Kinderspott,” was my personal favorite. The piece had an incredible amount of energy to it. It really punched you in the gut, and I mean that in the best way possible. The performers frequently plucked the strings on their instruments in a very rough way, and at times it looked like they were straight-up hitting the strings with their bows. In addition to that, if you were close to the stage, you could see the pianist’s bench moving backwards because of how intensely he was playing the piano. It was crazy.
The rest of Elfman’s piece calmed down a little, but it was still a joy to listen to. It almost sounded as if it were meant to be a score for a film, and a very good one at that.
My only small complaint about the evening was how it ended. They took an intermission after playing the new Elfman composition. After that, the players returned to the stage and played a work by Brahms.
It’s not that the piece was bad (it was actually quite good), but it didn’t feel like the right piece to end on. In most cases, you want to end on a strong note to leave the audience with a great feeling leaving the auditorium. That’s not what happened here. I can’t help but wish they had played the Brahms piece before the intermission and saved Elfman’s for last. It would’ve made the night flow a little more naturally, and given time for more anticipation to build before the world premiere of the Elfman piece.
Overall, I had a great time seeing the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet perform. They showed an extreme amount of talent and dedication to their art. Each of the pieces they played was a pleasure to listen to, and the Elfman piece in particular was a blast.
Before Wednesday, I didn’t have a whole lot of desire to see shows at the Lied Center, but now I can’t wait to go again soon.