Cohen-Timmons Duo

In Tandem Two: Twentieth Century Music for Two Pianos

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In Tandem Two: Twentieth Century Music for Two Pianos Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Performances of chamber works for two pianos are no different than any other ensemble performance -- from duos to full symphony orchestras -- in that they are most successful when they appear to listeners as if a single, unified instrument was playing all the parts. In their second installment as a duo piano ensemble, Judith Cohen and Jill Timmons fail to consistently live up to that criterion. This recording of their live 2004 performance really sounds like two people playing different parts on different instruments, lacking the seamless connection that distinguishes the best in two-piano playing. There's also a lack of variation when switching between composers; Copland sounds pretty much the same as Poulenc, which sounds pretty much the same as Lutoslawski. The duo seems locked in the trance of an unheard metronome, yielding a consistently adequate but bland performance. Copland's Suite from "Billy the Kid" should be immediately evocative of the American Old West, but no such sentiment is garnered from their playing. The magnificent Poulenc Sonata for Two Pianos and the fiendish Lutoslawski are similarly passionless, instead sounding very technically difficult. The sound quality of this recording further hampers the success of their performance; dynamics are limited to a very narrow mezzo-everything range and extremely busy passages quickly become muddy. Listeners may wish to consider recordings featuring Pascal Rogé and Martha Argerich for superior performances of the Poulenc and Lutoslawski, respectively.

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