Meral Güneyman / Dick Hyman

Playful Virtuosity

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This unusual item teams longtime American jazz and ragtime pianist Dick Hyman with the young Turkish artist Meral Güneyman, apparently one of those rare pianists equally at home in classical and jazz. She holds the title of Turkish State Artist and has been featured in the U.S. on some of the audience-friendly programs mounted by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Duo-piano elaborations on American popular songs have a long history, and the Gershwin arrangements here, by Earl Wild, are spectacularly dense, enriched even further by an improvisational component from Hyman. That component apparently doesn't extend to Güneyman, but there is nevertheless a strong sense of spontaneous interaction that persists in playing that unfolds at a very high technical level. The Gershwin pieces, and the John Lewis piece Django, are exciting indeed. The rest of the program is devoted to Hyman's own compositions, which are pleasant, relaxed pieces informed by his encyclopedic knowledge of American song. The performers have fun with them, but in no way do they have the energy of the rest of the music. A more varied program, featuring other selections from among the vast range of American music playable on two pianos, would have enhanced the enjoyment, but this is nevertheless an enjoyable introduction to a young pianist and postcard from a veteran.

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