One seldom knows quite what to expect from new music, but based on the performance at Cal State Fullerton Monday, when Markus Stange and Lutz Bidlingmaier play, one can look forward to a dazzling range of modern pianism in music both good and bad.
As the Stuttgarter Klavier Duo, they have championed new music together since 1975. The night’s musical rewards came in the second half of the program, in two works from 1987.
Jens-Peter Ostendorf’s “Tempus ex Machina” for pianos and percussion proved that modernism can be combined with traditional keyboard techniques to create mood and line. The pianists, aided by the expert playing of Todd Miller, Cliff Hulling and Steve Schmidt, provided a reading that was compellingly primitive and sonorously expressive.
Scarcely less moving was Joachim Krebs’ atmospheric “Duo,” sans percussion.
Patience seemed a virtue of the surprisingly large audience, as the opening half surely tried its musical stamina. “Linea” by Luciano Berio (1973)--for two pianos, marimba and vibraphone--succumbed to overlong, amorphous wanderings. After some arresting opening sonorities, the percussion was superfluous and the duo’s talent wasted.
Gyorgy Ligeti’s Three Pieces for Two Pianos (1976) fared better in its outer movements; the granitic blocks of consonant chords and the idiosyncratic Impressionism of the finale elicited stimulating playing.
Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase” demonstrated that two times almost nothing equals next to nothing. Its Minimalist meanderings challenged Stange and Bidlingmaier only to heights of virtuosic concentration.