Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 5

From 1940 until 1954, the two-piano team of Virginia Morley and Livingston Gearhart enjoyed wide popularity with concert, radio, and nightclub audiences. Both were scholarship students of Robert Casadesus and Nadia Boulanger when they met in Paris in 1937. A professional and personal relationship ensued, ending in 1954 with the couple’s divorce. Their programs encompassed repertoire from duo-piano classics to Gearhart’s own two-piano arrangements of popular and concert music fare. Gearhart’s concert music transcriptions generally remain faithful to the original source, although there are plenty of elaborations and added intricacies that will surely tickle even the most jaded ears. Having the advantage of two more hands, Gearhart recasts Chopin’s Minute Waltz in breathtaking thirds and adds all sorts of buzzing insects to Rimsky K’s fabled bumblebee flight. On the other hand, Gearhart opts for a shorter tour through Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Waltzes than Otto Singer provides in his better-known arrangement.

Purists might regret that Gershwin’s An American in Paris and the Finale of his F major Concerto are pruned to half their sizes, yet the cuts, though unecessary, do make musical sense. So do the discreet truncations within the Blue Danube Waltz and Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody. Popular tunes like All the Things You Are, Limehouse Blues, April in Paris, Russian Lullaby, Stormy Weather, Body and Soul, and Goodnight Ladies (among others) are jam-packed with slippery harmonic twists and turns that resemble two Art Tatums breaking bread with Poulenc and Milhaud, and perhaps imbibing a wee bit in the process. “Straight” classical pieces like the Arensky Waltz, eight Brahms Waltzes, and Tailleferre’s gorgeous La Tirelitentaine are served up with incandescent flair and absolutely seamless ensemble values. All I can say is that some extraordinary piano duo wizardry awaits you on this fascinating and truly fun release.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

Various composers & works -

  • Livingston Gearhart, Virginia Morley (pianos)

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