by Jan Nelson
Amazing technique, dazzling arrangements and a hilarious, if not subtly passive-aggressive, curated introduction to each piece underscored the Bergmann Duo’s brilliant dual piano performance at the Frank Venables Theatre on November 15, 2019.
Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann of the Bergmann Duo last visited Oliver in 2013. The new Frank Venables Theatre was still under construction and the Southern Okanagan Concert Society hosted the Duo at the Alliance Church. They have performed at concert halls across the North America and Europe and have graced the stages of Oliver twice. Although their home base in White Rock makes it easier for the Bergmann Duo to visit us, I am sure the audience’s reception of the performance made it a worthwhile trip over the mountains to visit our beautiful town.
She is from Medicine Hat, Alberta. He is from Munich, Germany. They both studied together at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover, Germany, and the Universite de Montreal, and rather than become competitors they decided to perform together. Elizabeth and Marcel’s partnership works on a variety of levels; they are both musically gifted, they love the same music, he is a composer and arranger who arranges much of their repertoire, she enjoys playing his arrangements, and they can spend countless hours practicing, travelling and performing together and still enjoy sharing the same stage!
Marcel is a wonderful arranger. If the Bergmann Duo wants to play a piece that is not available in a two piano arrangement, Marcel writes his own. The programme featured arrangements of pieces by JS Bach, Gershwin, Tango pieces from Piazzolla and a flamenco piece by Chick Corea, and they were all fabulously executed. The way Elizabeth and Marcel introduced each piece was especially insightful – the historical context of Debussy’s ‘En blanc et noir’, a piece written during the First World War featuring themes from French and German musical styles and scenes of war, could be clearly heard in the performance. The tango and flamenco themes introduced in the second half were perfectly placed in context, which heightened the audience’s enjoyment of the arrangement. The programme’s variation (some ‘quirky’, some ‘comedic’, some ‘heavy but not too heavy’) exposed the audience to wide assortment of styles, genres and pieces, and judging by the audience’s two standing ovations, the selections were perfect.
Elizabeth and Marcel’s chemistry on stage made a winning combination. The friendly banter between pieces shows the playfulness and comfort they enjoy as performers. While performing, their communication was punctuated by smiles, glance and even the odd raised eyebrow. It kept them in perfect synch throughout the whole performance.
I am soon entering my fifth decade of enjoying Southern Okanagan Concert Series’ concerts (gulp), and I am amazed the series continues with as much energy and support as it had back when I was five. I appreciate the performances in a different way now, and I am thankful to my parents for bringing me to many concerts during my childhood. I was particularly happy to see some younger audience members enjoying the performance (tickets for children are almost free!), and I hope this concert helped inspire them with their lifelong connection with music.
The Southern Okanagan Concert Society would like to thank their generous local sponsors for the 2019-2020 season. The next concert is Lizzy Hoyt, one of Canada’s premier Celtic-folk performers, on January 29, 2020. If you are looking to share a great experience with your loved ones in the New Year, this concert would make an excellent Christmas present for young and old ones alike. Tickets are available online or at the Venables Theatre.