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Tsaldarakis and Archontides have clearly developed a strong affinity for this music, and a close relationship with the two composers, and their performances are strong throughout, contrasting well the thicker chordal textures with bright melodies (often in bell-like octaves), and enjoying the jazz-infused melodies. A very enjoyable discovery.

Nick Boston, Classical Notes

Ivory Duo Piano in "Music in Portsmouth" 

There was no possibility of taking a walk today, one might have thought, the weather being inclement. The journey across town was uninviting and one for the hardy. But not the foolhardy. If music and art are to be our salvation in these grim times they are to be taken up, appreciated and supported and I’m very glad I didn’t stay in.

Ivory Duo are Greek pianists Panayotis Archontides and Natalie Tsaldarakis and they brought with them an adventurous programme of four-handed piano.

Debussy is at his most Satie in the Six Epigraphes Antiques which are almost disembodied, particularly atmospheric in For a nameless tomb and fittingly descriptive in To thank the morning rain, Debussy being more gracious than me.

Two of the featured composers being in the audience made it an occasion and thanks go to them, and many others, for making contemporary music not as forbidding as it once was, in the Age of Boulez. Hugh Benham’s An Afternoon Interrupted was a premiere. I wished I’d asked him ‘by what’, thinking it might have been that man from Porlock, but it is more likely to have been ideas of dance with its changing rhythms in what might have been waltz time and rumba and it is to be hoped that the Ivories take it to a wider audience from here.

John Elved Lewis’s Cerium featured tumbling scales and more fine empathy between two pianists becoming one unit in which ‘chemistry’ is the first necessity. And then Hugh Shrapnel, also present, was represented by his evocation of Ladywell Station, with its Edwardian or 1890’s country ambience in Greater London, that lilts before becoming busy with traffic and then rests back into the night after the last train leaves. His Square Blues was his ‘attempt’ at a jazz piece and successful in as far as Shostakovich was a jazz composer.

But, having begun piano, the set ended forte with Ravel’s La Valse, providing more evidence for my preference for a number of pieces for piano over orchestration, or maybe it’s just Ravel’s orchestration because my thesis is based on what he did to Mussorgsky but that was by no means damage.

La Valse re-creates the splendour of a Viennese ball, brews up a storm and then synthesizes the two elements with both pianists beginning from the lower half of the keyboard to create a crashing, bravura finish.

And with that Bang, the musical year is well underway in these parts. A faint heart that doesn’t brave the elements isn’t rewarded with moments like that. 

David Green

Fine, detailed sound, and excellent piano playing from Panayotis Archontides'
'Rhapsody' (release of violin and piano repertoire, Convivium, 2023)

A.Thomson, The American Record Review

Ivory Duo Piano in "Music in Portsmouth" 

Panayotis Archontides and Natalie Tsaldarakis returned to Portsmouth and found a much better sized audience than for their previous visit. Maybe their reputation is deservedly growing quite rapidly or perhaps the benefits of the free publicity of an interview at Music in Portsmouth were advertised by such box office results.

For many of us of a certain age, the opening of Faure’s Dolly Suite is drenched in nostalgia for Listen with Mother on the BBC Home Service and then Radio 4 and so, yes, we were soon sitting very comfortably. It’s not possible to separate the waves of grief for lost childhood from the realization that it is a gorgeous, softly lilting tune before any associations it brings with it and then, possibly, grows up a bit through mild rhapsody to what I’d say was a tarantella of a finish.

The Waltz from Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite was sufficiently nuanced to enhance the forte of its grand sweep as the duet swapped places, not that either the high end or low end is any more important than the other, but just in case and because they can. 

Panayotis has arranged the film music of Miklos Rozsa whose credits include Ben Hur and El Cid and the Lydia Suite was as Romantic and maybe Korngold as epic film music is required to be. The Bosendorfer might have a few extra low notes but in the climax here could almost have made use of some extra top notes.

As well as their hugely enjoyable repertoire of familiar classics, Ivory Duo promote the work of two Hughs, with a new record of Hugh Shrapnel’s music due tomorrow. At the Rivoli was jazz-inflected and neat, based on its 4-note motif and Hugh Benham’s Finale grew and grew from understated origins to the biggest climax yet.

Except it wasn’t the finale and I was betting without Grieg’s Peer Gynt with its clear morning light, stillness and the jaunty attitude of its third section before Natalie’s portentous approaching footsteps came up from downstairs in In the Hall of the Mountain King before all else of it was unleashed.

An encore would have been appropriate but it was gone 2 o’clock by then and, let’s face it, the pub had been open for quite some time. I’m sure they’ll be back because they seem to like it here. Lovely people. They’ll be welcome any time.  

David Green

The Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble speak to Lola Perrin

Markson Pianos' blog with our interview to composer Lola Perrin. Read HERE

At the Piano with……Natalie Tsaldarakis

Natalie's interview for the Cross Eyed Pianist online blog. Read it HERE

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