The Maybeck Recital Hall has been home to some of the best pianists whose playing resonated not only within the walls of that institution, but into the history of piano music as well. That sounding board came alive once more when Myra Melford and Satoko Fujii performed there on September 14, 2007.
Melford and Fujii have established their own creative niches. Each has her own approach, but there is a commonality in the way they divine the path they are going to take. Much of it is unknown; intuition drives innovation just as vision is dictated by focus. Logic is sustained even as they pull out a welter of delightful surprises to give their music an indelible presence.
Fujii and Melford play three duets with each taking a solo turn. The latter puts them in perspective, and shows just how each develops a theme and lets free form coalesce into an impacting whole.
Fujii trampolines in different directions on "Trace a River." She runs a wide gamut ruffling the strings of the piano into an oriental melody, complementing them with a soft caress of the keys which she then trajectories into emphatic, leaping notes. Her muse calls for constant shifts of time and pulse and she envisions that through hammering chords that bounce off the melody. The flowing scenario has an innate majesty whether it is in the rough and tumble of her thrust, or in the gentleness she evokes to balance the tide.
Melford is spacey and introspective as she examines "Be Melting Snow," adding pause for effect. Her chords are structured to marry the pirouettes that rise from her sense of playfulness. She does not linger here, choosing instead to strengthen the harmonic ambit with a two-handed approach. The sum of her approach is saturated in a swash of concepts.
The duets turn out to be a meeting of the minds. Melford and Fujii not only play off each other trading germane ideas, they also converge in seamless lines. The piano is an instrument where every vestige can be utilized and they dip into that opening using the strings, the body, and yes, the keys to charge ahead in unabashed momentum or to integrate softly billowing notes.
When these extraordinary innovators get together, the result is electrifying.