The 'Piano Titans': James Anagnoson and Leslie Kinton, Photo by Nicola Betts courtesy of the Elora Festiva

ANAGNOSON AND KINTON: a triumphant celebration of a 40-year collaboration

Anagnoson and Kinton, Photo by Maria Kouznetsova

James Anagnoson and Leslie Kinton began their 40th Anniversary celebratory tour yesterday with a concert at St. John’s Church in Elora ON as part of the Elora Festival. In an era when careers, marriages, friendships, and musical groups often have far shorter lifespans, it is all the more remarkable that this piano duo has been performing together regularly since 1976. Having toured the world, given more than one thousand concerts, and been recognized as one of the world’s leading piano partnerships, their accomplishments deserve to be celebrated!

Yesterday’s program was a retrospective on their career highlighting many of the significant moments therein with some of the important music they have performed. 

The concert began with the first movement of Brahms’ Sonata for Two Pianos in F Minor Op.34b. This was the piece that set them on their career when heard by the famed Greek pianist Gina Bachauer shortly before her death. Her inspiration was the catalyst they needed. In yesterday’s recital, Anagnoson and Kinton performed the sonata with a sonority that can only come from impeccable technique and from each of the artists being meticulously aware of the other. The result was a rendition that was powerful yet never without clarity and balance.

Next, Anagnoson and Kinton were joined by the Elora Festival Singers with selections from Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes Op. 52. From the opening phrase, the choir was breathtaking. The 22-voice professional choir under the direction of Noel Edison, is truly a virtuosic ensemble. It performed with impeccable intonation and clearly articulated German diction. These ‘love waltzes’ had the delicacy of a madrigal ensemble yet when called for, the resonance of the choir filled the hall, its sound resembling that of a choir twice its size. The collaboration between the singers and the piano duo was a brilliant programming feat and underscored the Elora Festival’s subtitle: A Celebration of Song.

Review by David Richards
Elora ON July 10, 2016

Variations on Land of the Silver Birch by Pierre Gallant was included in the program as an example of the many works commissioned by the duo over the piano titans’ forty-year career. The two-piano arrangement of The Blue Danube Waltz had been a significant milestone for them as an early performance of the work had led to the Yamaha Piano executives in attendance offering them matching Yamaha grand pianos for all subsequent performances anywhere in North America; this set the young duo’s career on the ‘fast track’. The 2nd movement of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos in D Minor was performed as an example of works that Anagnoson and Kinton have recorded. Their most recent cd is entitled Piano Titans – Anagnoson and Kinton

The finale to the program was an excerpt from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as originally written for two pianos. They performed this with acrobatic technique and a wonderful sense of the jazz idiom. Kinton in his remarks said that Gershwin had been asked to compose a rhapsody reminiscent of Liszt incorporating American jazz rather than Hungarian folk tunes. Anagnoson and Kinton delivered with dazzling flamboyance as only a world-class ensemble with 40 years of performing experience could. 

From here, Anagnoson and Kinton will be celebrating in other summer music festivals across Ontario and next winter in centres across Canada. The Elora Festival continues through July 24th with more superb choral music and an array of internationally renowned guest artists. It is a festival not to be missed!


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