It’s normal to see orchestral pieces that contain one piano. The UCSC orchestra decided to do something more unique.
Both tomorrow and Saturday, the orchestra will feature two music majors — fourth-year Diana Chau and third-year Lucia Del Guerzo — in a one-of-a-kind piano duet. The orchestra will play three pieces: Sergei Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony,” Francis Poulenc’s “Concerto for Two Pianos” featuring Chau and Del Guerzo, and “Night Blooming” by Noah Gideon Meites, a composer and musician in the UCSC Doctorate of Musical Arts Composition program.
Del Guerzo and Chau brought Poulenc’s “Concerto for Two Pianos” to the attention of the music department for consideration as a performance piece after their piano teacher, Mary Jane Cope, introduced it to Del Guerzo.
“Mary Jane suggested that we check out some Poulenc, who wrote the two-piano piece, and I figured, ‘OK,’” Del Guerzo said. “It was the first link on YouTube, so I clicked it, fell in love, and said, ‘I just have to do this.’”
But Del Guerzo needed another pianist — which is where Chau came into the picture.
This is not the first time the two pianists’ paths have crossed. In fact, Chau and Del Guerzo attended the San Francisco School of the Arts together.
“We’re both from San Francisco, so it’s been really easy for us to get in touch and get together and practice during the summer,” Chau said.
It’s been a year since then, and the two have drilling the keys the entire time. During the spring quarter, Chau and Del Guerzo won the orchestra’s concerto competition.
The pianists work to stay in sync with one another as performers, using nonverbal communication and timing.
“Sometimes it gets frustrating to get exactly what you want out of the other person, but we work it out,” Del Guerzo said.
Piano instructor Mary Jane Cope has taught at the campus since 1977 and has had both Chau and Del Guerzo as her piano students since their first year.
“I think [Diana and Lucia] play well together; they both came from the same School of the Arts in San Francisco, so they are a good match and have played together before,” Cope said. “I suggested this concerto to them last year because it isn’t heard a lot, and it seemed to be a piece that suits them both, and it did. I mean, they really love the piece and have committed to it.”
The piece is “a brilliant, charming, and witty three-movement pastiche with nods to Mozart, Balinese gamelan and Parisian nightlife in the ’30s,” Cope said in an e-mail.
“It’s a concerto for two pianos, and that’s a difficult ensemble, because you have to have two good pianists who play together a lot,” she said.
Chau said she couldn’t imagine playing the piece with anyone else.
“It would be very different,” she said. “I mean, we’ve been under the instruction of the same teacher, and went to the same high school, so we just have that built-in connection.”
Del Guerzo said it would be a wholly new experience to play the piece with another person.
“I could see myself playing with another person, but the piece just takes skills, and there are certain passages where I would be hesitant if someone else could do it or not,” she said. “It’s also the same feel and the same touch on the keys.”
As the production’s opening night looms closer, the two musicians’ anticipation is heightening.
“We’re so ready,” Del Guerzo said. “This is not just boring classical music. This is an extravagant piece, and we are just so excited and honored to be playing it with the UCSC orchestra.”