Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The 5 Browns: Not Your Average Piano Quintet

I've previously mentioned the importance of piano duet and duo playing, as well as the challenges of music for larger pianistic forces, such as the 2 pianos/8 hands works I played at Eastman last year.

Enter the 5 Browns. Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra and Desirae are five siblings that perform piano ensemble music in various combinations from solo and duet up to works for five pianos. Fresh off their Canadian debut at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and CBC Radio 2 broadcast, the Juilliard-trained quintet of pianists are set to release their third album, Browns in Blue, on October 2.

Check out the 5 Browns' website for a crash course on how classical artists should be handling their publicity these days--not just a discography, bio, event listings and photos, but embeddable videos, a forum, polls, desktop wallpaper, IM buddy icons, and merchandise.

The 5 Browns make it look easy, but multi-piano works are extremely difficult to prepare and perform. The sheer volume of more than two pianos sounding at the same time creates an incredibly large mass of sound that must be meticulously balanced in rehearsal--in other words, keep down if you don't have the melody and play like hell if you do.

So how do you set up a quintet of Steinways? Take a look at this video of the 5 Browns performing Gerschwin's Rhapsody in Blue arranged for five pianos. Look closely and you'll get a sense of the dense network of visual cues needed to keep a work of this complexity together. Enjoy--links to the Browns' first two albums are also posted below the video.

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