Meet The Percussion Family

Presenting the piano as percussion instrument

« previous episode | next episode »

Monday, March 28, 2011

If the piano is a legitimate member of the percussion family, then it most certainly gets strange looks at reunions. This week on Hammered! we're embracing this familial black sheep and showcasing composers that utilize the piano for what it is: a percussion instrument.

We'll cover the whole piano-as-percussion gamut, beginning Monday with a piece originally written for percussion, Steve Reich's Music For Pieces Of Wood. In this striking arrangement made and performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the four parts of the original piece are assigned four different pitches and overdubbed. On the same day we have a special guest introduction by Jacob Ter Veldhuis (AKA Jacob TV) of a piece he wrote called Toccata where, as he colorfully describes, the pianist performs with his nose.

Other highlights: we have the Q2 premiere of Bela Bartok's extraordinary Sonata For Two Pianos and Percussion, which is good counter-evidence to Bartok enthusiasts that insist the Hungarian composer is not synonymous with twentieth century percussive piano playing. Also, tune in Wednesday for a live performance from the 2009 Bang On A Can Music Marathon by composer/pianist Moritz Eggert of his piece One Man Band, which in addition to slapping, spanking and scratching the piano, asks the performer to whistle, stomp and yell. Not to be missed.

Lastly, and rounding out this piano-percussion exploration, is a Friday show devoted entirely to the seminal Sonatas and Interludes by John Cage, who is widely credited with inventing the prepared piano. These are stunning and evocative works where Cage uses a collection of office and kitchen supplies to turn the piano into a full-on percussion setup.

Ever seen a pianist play with his nose? Stream JacobTV's Toccata above and see pianist Kees Wierenga perform it below.

Hosted by:

Conor Hanick

Comments [3]

Michael Meltzer

The word for "percussion" in a French score (partition) is "batterie."

Mar. 29 2011 07:21 PM

Good call Michael. I remember pounding away on that piece in my youth. Perhaps no other piece in the repertoire has been so battered ... save for maybe the Tchiakovsky concerto.

Mar. 28 2011 12:02 PM
Michael Meltzer

The first experience most pianists have with the "piano as percussion" (other than some of the Bartok Mikroksomos) is the Khachaturian Toccata, sometimes considered a "student piece." It's almost universally played by piano students, but hardly ever recorded, so your non-pianist listeners have probably never heard this extremely popular sheet music best-seller.
There is an archival re-release on Naxos by 20th-century virtuoso Benno Moiseivitch

Mar. 28 2011 02:29 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.