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Duo Amal

Complementary strengths meet on the bridge

February 25, 2014

The enterprising concert series Musical Bridges Around the World is in the midst of its inaugural “Music Without Borders” festival, a farrago of jazz, flamenco, Indian and Western classical programs. 

The Duo Amal, heard Sunday afternoon in Ruth Taylor Recital Hall, exemplifies the notion of music without borders: The duo comprises classical pianists Bishara Haroni, a Palestinian born in Nazareth, and Yaron Kohlberg, an Israeli born in Jerusalem. The word “amal” is Arabic for “hope.”

There was no explicitly political content in their program, which was strongly tilted to Russian composers — Serge Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony in a two-piano arrangement by the Japanese composer Rikuya Terashima, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Concertino for Two Pianos and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1. The recital opened with Franz Schubert’s epic Fantasia in F Minor for piano four hands. One Israeli composer was represented — Avner Dorman’s delightful “Karsilana.”  

The two pianists shared a muscularity and an ample technical arsenal colored by complementary strengths. Mr. Haroni was the more sensuous of the two, more probing in his phrasing, and his tone was more consistently beautiful on both of the Steinways. (The two players switched back and forth.) Mr. Kohlberg’s touch was more percussive, his wit more deadpan (effectively so) in Shostakovich and Prokofiev, and his phrasing a little more contained, although some passages, such as the dreamy third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Suite (“The Tears”), revealed great generosity of feeling.

The entire program was compellingly played, but most memorable was the Schubert, in which the two conveyed the full depth of the music’s anguish and tenderness while maintaining firm control.

Dorman’s “Karsilama” — the name refers to a Turkish folk dance that spread to much of the old Ottoman Empire — lasted less than five minutes but was nicely filled with jazzy, percussive, rhythmically exciting enjoyment.

Mike Greenberg