Jeffrey Siegel’s “Keyboard Conversations” has been bringing dazzling piano music and composer insight to our valley for a decade. Tomorrow’s offering will feature music which has become incredibly familiar to virtually everyone, and are generally considered as “signature pieces” for the piano, having been studied and performed by pianists worldwide since they were composed, in some cases, more than two centuries ago.
Jeffrey’s menu this time features Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, the haunting second movement Adagio from Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata, Manuel de Falla’s flashy Ritual Fire Dance, Frederic Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu, the Earl Wild transcription of George Gershwin’s Fascinating Rhythm, and a couple of my own all-time favorites that are perhaps best known from their use in film.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s set of 24 variations, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, was an instant hit since it was first composed in 1934, and first performed and recorded with Rachmaninoff himself as piano soloist with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In particular, the 18th variation has become a favorite for pianists and film buffs alike, most notably for its use in the 1980 romantic science fiction film Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve, where Rachmaninoff’s beautiful 18th variation was used with original music by film composer John Barry to create a unique soundtrack for this romantic tale of time travel.
Then there’s Franz Liszt’s almost-too-familiar Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which became a favorite piano classic for animators who gave the pianist role to a tux-tailed Bugs Bunny, assisted by a mouse living inside the piano. This was played out yet again by Tom & Jerry, Woody Woodpecker (forced to play it at gunpoint by a classical piano music-loving gangster), and the late, great Victor Borge with Rowlf the Dog on The Muppets.
All these colorful references of their use set aside, Jeffrey Siegel will of course, give us the background on the pieces themselves, and the men who wrote them, as he performs them as well, in his own special way. And I can also promise you, that even if you are not a classical piano buff, or recognize any of the pieces I’ve named above, you will recognize most all of the music you will hear. Always entertaining and a delight to see and hear, don’t miss Jeffrey Siegel’s “Keyboard Conversations” – Monday, December 2, 7 pm, $35/25/20, McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, 760-340-2787, www.mccallumtheatre.com.