Lynn René Bayley
, November 2012
This appears to be the first video release of this famous improvised duo recital by Friedrich Gulda and Chick Corea…What made it so special then, and continues to make it special today, is the feeling of discovery the pianists have in each other’s playing and the interesting synthesis they create together.
This is jazz-classical music of a very high order, the kind of music that I’m sure influenced Nikolai Kapustin. Gulda ends his set with an in-between piece, a paraphrase on a traditional tune called Die Reblaus, which continually alternates back and forth between formal and improvised feeling.
…this concert was an ear-opener for both pianists into a musical world that had formerly been out of earshot of each other.
Corea’s set begins with a long improvisation, titled in the booklet as being “on ’Round Midnight, ”…Suffice it to say that Corea is at his most inventive and ingenious here. Improvisation 3 contains some references to his own famous tune La Fiesta, and in Improvisation 4 he employs his little trick of holding down the piano strings with a finger while he plays percussive figures on the keyboard. This final piece also has the strongest Latin rhythm, and again there are references to some of his famed Latin-tinged compositions. It erupts in a flurry of keyboard fireworks, but ends as quietly as it began. The audience goes berserk.
Yet the duet part of the program is, by far, the most absorbing and fascinating—to watch as well as to hear. Corea and Gulda, facing each other across the top of dueling Steinways…This is truly instantaneous improvisation…One of the more remarkable passages comes where Gulda, again reaching into the piano frame, plucks out some soft bass notes that perfectly complement what Corea is playing on his keyboard, after which the two pianists briefly engage in an improvised canon. Then we finally hear the famed Churchill tune, and with Corea to help him along Gulda really swings. There’s yet another remarkable passage where Corea falls into an ostinato rhythm groove, Gulda plays counterpoint, and they suddenly grin at each other across the pianos and begin to sound like one pianist with four hands. With Gulda’s help, the music even moves into a brief fugue before again relaxing the tempo and ending as quietly as—but more musically assured than—it began.
…the second duo-improvisation is even further out than the first; despite the completely spontaneous nature of the performance, the music is even more technically involved and brilliantly conceived. What occurs in this second piece would take three paragraphs to analyze, but suffice it to say that their blistering pace and rapid exchange of ideas produce the kind of music that Alkan and Liszt could only have dreamed of. What impresses me most in this piece is the rapidity of the turnarounds, how quickly they are able to respond to each other’s musical ideas without ever losing sight of where they are headed. This is improvised piano jazz on the highest level of art…In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is the kind of musical dialog that usually occurs only in private settings, without either an audience or microphones. That both of these were present, and that it was achieved in a large hall filled to capacity, is a miracle of our time.
Improvisation No. 3, listed in the program as Poem No. 3 by Fritz Pauer, is now initiated by Gulda. Corea listens intently, then jumps in and follows. Here, again, the rhythm is more formal—at least at first. His spontaneously created melody is gentle, almost ballad-like in feeling and structure.
In short, this is an absolute gem of a DVD…the duo improvisation will literally have you on the edge of your seat every time you view it… © 2012 Fanfare