Valentine concerts traditionally offer dreamy love songs and those will certainly be on the program at First Parish in Bedford on Sunday, Feb 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. But this year the audience is in for an added treat as special guests Heinrich Christensen and Robert Winkley will perform 20th century piano compositions for four hands, works that will add rhythmic sparkle to the program.
Christensen, the acclaimed organist at Kings’ Chapel, Boston, in conversation with The Citizen told us that he studied both piano and organ in his native Denmark and within the past several years has teamed with his neighbor and friend Robert Winkley to present four-hand piano concerts. For the Feb. 12 concert, they have chosen a sonata by Paul Hindemith, dances by Peter Warlock, and selections from Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. And to conclude, two enduring favorites by Cole Porter: “From this Moment On” and fittingly, “In the Still of the Night.”
Baritone Bob Winkley is known to the vibrant Boston musical community both as a singer and pianist. He’s a member of the 12-person First Church Boston Choral Ensemble and in his day job, is the long-time registrar at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Why did Christensen-distinguished organist, winner of many awards- take up the piano again, which had been something of a sideline for him since his student days? “Playing the organ is a lonely business,” he laughed, “and playing four-hand piano music is a lovely balance.”
The story really begins with the gift of a Steinway piano to King’s Chapel for use in the Parish House. As is so often the case, when someone is moving away or downsizing, the Steinway “needed a home.” After it came to rest in the small chapel, a more contemporary worship space, Christensen saw the potential for piano concerts and for him to resume piano playing.
Christensen came to King’s Chapel in 1999, as assistant to the legendary organist Daniel Pinkham. After Pinkham died, Christensen succeeded to the organist position. In recent years he has given organ concerts at First Parish but this is his debut as a pianist.
The selections he and Winkley will perform are a bit out of the usual repertoire -with the exception of the Mother Goose suite which will be familiar to most listeners. Peter Warlock had an impact on the English world of music in the early 20th century, although he died at the young age of 36. Hindemith, who left Germany in 1937 and came to the U.S. in 1940, was a prolific composer, who wrote for a variety of instruments- viola, cello, and piano, and composed symphonies, chamber and vocal music as well.
Four-hand piano music was much played in 19th century America, in “pre” radio and phonograph times. Massive numbers of works in all genres-from symphonies to chamber music and more- were transcribed for four-hand piano so they could be played by amateur musicians, in the day when many homes had a piano. Transcriptions of this kind were a way to bring music into the home.