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Octtava Piano Duo Doubles Up

Wei-Der Huang and Hsien-Ann Meng, playing piano

It takes two to play music written for four-hand and two pianos. What happens when eight hands at two pianos are needed?

This winter, Howard Community College (HCC) music faculty members Wei-Der Huang and Hsien-Ann Meng, known as the Octtava Piano Duo, venture into multi-media technology in their performance of Die Moldau from Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic poem “Mein Vaterland.”

“We got an idea to bring a piano piece for eight hands on two pianos,” said Huang, HCC Concert Series coordinator. “But, we are not going to play with two other pianists, but ourselves as a revolution.” The concept fits with the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center’s (HVPA) seasonal theme, “Revolution.”

To accomplish this, the duo will record a four-hand – two pianists on one piano – performance video which will be projected on stage as Huang and Meng play the first part live, giving the sound and illusion of eight hands playing two pianos.

“The challenge for this concert is to record part of the music and then use it to rehearse,” Huang said. “It will take a great deal of time to work on the recording to get it where we want it for the performance.”

Rehearsals and other preparation for such a complex performance take four-to six months, she said.

It’s a challenge, but a lot of fun for the duo, who met in 1993 at the University of Maryland, College Park while they were students in the doctoral program. The two began playing as a piano duo in spring 2002 when Meng gave a lecture about piano duet music in Bethesda.

The two have performed regionally, nationally, and internationally, showcasing an array of classical and contemporary works. The process of agreeing on what to perform comes naturally for the pair. Their mutual respect and passion for collaboration shine through in each performance.

“When you work the music by yourself, you think of the music the way you want,” she said. “But when you work with another person, you see something different. You see the music from another person’s eye. I feel very fortunate to play with Hsein-Ann, because I have a lot of fun.”

Meng, chair of the music department at HCC, said, “When I play with her, I feel like I’m being challenged. I really enjoy that.”

Octtava Piano Duo – Takes Two will take place Sunday, February 25, 2018, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Monteabaro Recital Hall, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College. For tickets and information, contact 443-518-1500 or boxoffice@howardccedu.
Topics: Arts & Culture
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