Ensemble Music Society; Indiana History Center Basile Theater; Nov. 19
The artistry of pianists Susan Grace and Alice Rybak is extraordinary in their range of 20th century compositional idioms. Paul Lansky’s “It All Adds Up” includes notes that stand alone, hang out together or bump into each other. Debussy’s “En Blanc et Noir” rhythmically feels like conversations at a cocktail party, a tea party and ladies at lunch. With Jolen Novacek’s “Three Rags for Two Pianos” we could just relax into the flirty whimsy of syncopation before a cerebral second half. In “Mihr,” Alan Hovhaness translates an Armenian Fire God story as a virtual cacophony of zither sounds. And with “Otherworldly Resonances,” George Crumb pairs plucking and holding piano strings while pressing keys for what felt like a ride on an untamed bronco. “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” is Frederic Rzewski’s lifelike simulation of the rhythm and tone of machines at work. Just when the monotony is about to drive you mad, you’re swept up in a set of playful vaudeville tunes that peter out into the sureness of the monotony again. Hard listening, good for the soul and the mind. www.ensemblemusic.org.