Arthur Ferrante, of the superb twin-piano team of Ferrante and Teicher, has passed away at the age of 88. Lou Teicher, you'll recall, died in August of last year. The very fine Los Angeles Times obituary can be read here: Arthur Ferrante Dies at 88.
Along with Pierre Luboshutz and Genia Nemenoff, F&T were my introduction to four-hand piano music on records. My first live experience was when my piano teacher had me play Bizet's gorgeous Children's Games with him in its two-piano arrangement. Like a lot of genres, four-hand piano music doesn't get enough respect, which translates to critics and listeners treating it like a novelty every time it shows up, even though it's been a big part of popular and art music history since at least the time of Gottschalk. Never mind that F&T had been preceded by Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, Virginia Morley and Livingston Gearhart, Jose and Ampara Iturbi, and Maryan Rawicz and Walter Landauer--whatever's not hip didn't exist. You know the drill, I know the drill.
Actually, Art and Lou were slightly okay by the hipsters, at least when they were playing "prepared" pianos--1952 examples of which we're going to hear today. Years ago, I had a 10" LP of these recordings, and I found the doctored-piano sound pretty inane. I warmed up to them sometime later, though mostly because these performances and arrangements are so good, and not so much for the ping, pop, zing, etc. The John Cage connection is what makes prepared piano acceptable to those in the know, I guess. As opposed to the gorgeous light orchestral fare that filled most of Art and Lou's LPs.
Due in no small part to brilliant early-Fifties Columbia engineering, the percussion effects on these 1952 sides are quite effective. What we're hearing is as much the product, imo, of magnetic tape and mic placement as arrangement of objects on and in the piano soundboard. But none of it would work without two great performers at the keys. Click here to hear: HI-FIRE WORKS (Columbia CL-573)
FALLING IN LOVE WITH LOVE
THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC
I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN
FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLE BEE
SUSANNA'S LAST STAND
All recorded in 1952; LP released in 1953. More Art and Lou to come.