Serenading Spring

Deryn Varney

At the Chapel last Sunday afternoon, pianist Amy Heyman looked intense. She was draped in a sheer black cardigan that hung low over the piano bench on which she was seated. The cardigan shimmered with sequins as Heyman leaned back and then forward, wholly focused on the music she performed with her husband, and Artist in Residence of Piano, Steve Heyman. Mr. Heyman wore a black suit, and he jerked his body energetically as he struck each chord on his own piano. Together, the couple played three pieces: The “Romance” from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2, George Gershwin’s “American in Paris” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.

Each piece was characterized by a markedly different tone, but each, according to the program, was selected “to evoke thoughts, feelings, and images of spring.” The pieces were arranged for four distinct hands, but the two performers blended their parts seamlessly and skillfully to form one continuous and beautiful sound.

The Rachmaninoff was the shortest piece the pianists performed. Coincidentally, it was also the only composition originally intended for two pianos. The Gershwin and the Beethoven, by contrast, were arranged for orchestra as well as for piano. After the show, Amy Heyman noted that when she plays, she remains conscious of the instrument associated with her piano part.

“It changes the sound of the music,” Heyman said.

The Gershwin piece had a jazzy, lilting sound that, as Mr. Heyman noted in his introduction, was meant to portray the bustling sounds of Paris in the springtime. Mr. and Mrs. Heyman each sat at a separate piano to play. Mr. Heyman played the piano positioned at the front of the Chapel stage, facing left, while Mrs. Heyman sat before the second piano, which rested directly behind the first. She faced the right wall of the Colgate Chapel.

As the song progressed, it frequently returned to a single, bouncing phrase. One woman in the audience pecked her head forward and back in tempo as the pianists adeptly stroked the piano keys. After the song, which lasted about fifteen minutes, Mr. and Mrs. Heyman paused for a short intermission.

A few minutes later, they returned to the Chapel stage for a final piece, which they performed with intensity for its length of almost forty-five minutes. The additional piano was abandoned, and Mr. and Mrs. Heyman took seats beside each other on a single piano bench.

Beethoven’s symphony recalled cheerful thoughts of the countryside, describing nature through a “Scene by the brook” and a “Thunderstorm” as well as capturing individuals’ reactions to the power of nature. It was characterized by brilliant dynamic contrast and emotion. As the piece ended, the parts bounced softly together, then crescendoed into one final, intense chord.

When asked whether it was difficult to play on a single piano with another person, Mrs. Heyman responded that the most difficult part of dual piano performance is playing at unusual angles and choosing who will play the notes that the two performers share. However, she enjoys sitting down next to her husband at the piano.

“I get inspiration from him,” Heyman said.