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Recital series celebrates keyboard duets

Marilyn Garst, seated at the piano, Cynthia Bauhof-Williams, standing, rehearse for a recital of piano duets Nov. 17, at the Unitarian Universalist Church. (Courtesy of J. Reynolds)
Garst, Bauhof-Williams gear up for Nov. 17 performance

Music rehearsals usually are marked by serious concentration, a lot of repetition and plain hard work. An abundance of laughter might be seen as a rarity.

Last week, on a sunny afternoon in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church, pure joy filled the air as pianists Marilyn Garst and Cynthia Bauhof-Williams played through a program of duets. In the rare, forthcoming recital Nov. 17, of music for piano four hands, duets constitute the whole program.

For lovers of piano music in general, the recital is a feast. The program opens with Mozart’s Sonata in D Major. Garst said it was written in Mozart’s late teens and most likely intended for a performance with his talented sister, Nannerl. The three short movements serve as an introduction to more complex piano-four-hands music including Brahms’ Waltzes, Op. 39, which immediately follow.

If you go

WHAT: UUFD Recital Series: Pianists Cynthia Bauhof-Williams and Marilyn Garst.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 17.

WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 419 San Juan Drive.

ADMISSION: Individual tickets $20, $8. Online, cash or checks at the door.

MORE INFORMATION: durangouu.org/events/recital-series; or contact Marilyn Garst: 385-8668; mmgarst1940@gmail.com.

“The Brahms was written in 1865 and consists of 16 short Viennese waltzes,” Garst said. “The immense popularity of these waltzes led quickly to the publication of a solo version. Four of them were arranged for two pianos.”

After relishing Brahms piano-four-hands work, five “Images,” by American composer Norman Dello Joio will conclude the first half of the recital. The “Images” were created in 1966 as four-hand pieces for the composer’s children. Dello Joio titled each section: Cortège, Promenade, Day Dreams, The Ballerina and The Dancing Sergeant. Expect to hear a lively collection of works fusing classical style with contemporary “melodic and rhythmic dynamism,” Garst said.

After intermission, the duo will perform a miniature Sonata for four hands by another 20th century composer, Francois Poulenc.

He was only 19, Garst said, when he composed this sonata, and she underscored his association after World War I with the disruptive Parisian Dadaists.

“The purpose of the Sonata was to poke fun at traditional art forms and ridicule the meaninglessness of the modern world,” she said.

How that anti-establishment stance translated in the visual arts is well known. How it sounds in music comes down to “barbarous rhythms and folksy short tunes,” Garst said. “And, the players are sometimes required to cross hands over each other.”

Pianists Marilyn Garst and Cynthia Bauhof-Williams rehearse for the Nov. 17 concert at UUFD. (Courtesy of J. Reynolds)

Another work written originally for the delight of children will close the recital. Gabriel Fauré’s “Dolly” is a six-part work composed for the daughter of a family friend. Section titles give away a lighthearted intention. Fauré begins with a lullaby and moves through various meters, which include two dances, one humorously dedicated to a pet dog. Fauré’s charming folly concludes with a Spanish dance.

The UUFD series has two remaining recitals: Feb. 16, saxophonist Justin Hubbard and April 26, mezzo-soprano Drea Pressley.

Musical compatibility

Pianists Marilyn Garst and Cynthia Bauhof-Williams have learned they share a lot in common. Both have extensive musical training. Garst culminated her formal music education with a doctorate from Michigan State University plus additional study at Julliard. Bauhof-Williams earned her DMA from the University of Southern California. Both are former music faculty members. For 25 years, Garst served on the music faculty at The George Washington University teaching harpsichord and keyboard ensembles. Most recently, Bauhof-Williams taught at Pasadena City College and has moved to Durango with her husband.

Throughout their careers, both pianists have performed as soloists and with various chamber ensembles. For the last 16 years, Garst has organized the UUFD Recital Series. That’s where the two musicians met. Last May, Bauhof-Williams and her husband attended the final Spring 2023 program featuring violinist Richard Silvers and pianist Holly Quist. A week later, Garst attended Bauhof-Williams’ classical/jazz performance on May 13 at Stillwater Music. The two quickly discovered shared crossroads and considerable musical compatibility. By early summer, they began planning the performance of duets you will hear Nov. 17 in the UU Recital Series.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.