Chicago Duo-Piano Winter Mini-Fest Review - The Mack Sisters Come To Chicago

What a lovely way to spend an evening! Saturday, The Music Institute of Chicago presented The Chicago Duo Piano Mini Festival, a yearly event designed to expose viewers to a unique kind of musical gamut.  

“… The Chicago Duo Piano Mini Fest was founded in 1988 by MIC’s award-winning resident piano duo, Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem.

Its mission is to foster a deeper interest in the repertoire, performance, and teaching of music for piano, four hands and two pianos. The Duo-Piano Winter Mini Fest, held each February, celebrates piano repertoire for four hands and offers a weekend of fun for students of all ages looking for a unique opportunity to work on and perform duo piano repertoire…”

This year’s festival featured two extraordinary talents. The Mack sisters, Yuki and Tomoko Mack, are extremely accomplished pianists, both winning numerous prestigious awards for both one and two piano works. They have played all over the United States as well as in Europe and their home country of Japan. While in Chicago, they have been broadcasted on WFMT radio.

The evening began in the large, open venue of the handsome and historic Music Institute of Chicago. The structure featured gorgeous stain glass windows and high vaulted ceilings, making for amazing acoustics and on the stage sat two nine-foot long Steinway grand pianos.

Before the concert started, the Mack sisters first explained their musical selections. The program would include the works of acclaimed American composers Aaron Copland, Percy Aldridge Grainger and George Gershwin as well as Argentinean composer Astor Piazzola, composer Bedrich Smetana and the famous classical composer Claude Debussy.

They began with the work of Aaron Copland. The first selection was entitled Hoe Down. It was played on two separate pianos, on playing the melody, and the other accompaniment, creating high dynamic contrast. Their playing was so light and fluid that it only sounded like one person playing alone. Also by Copland was Saturday Night Waltz. The audience was swept away by its beautiful flowing quality and the orchestra hall was instantly transformed into a great ballroom.   

Next, were three pieces by Piazzola called Adios Nonino, Oblivion and Libertango. All three pieces had completely different sounds and textures. My favorite, Adios Nonino, a piece written for his deceased grandfather, was filled with anger and passion, brought to life by means of loud chords.
Following was the work of Debussy. Prélude a’laprés-midi d’un faune, translated as The Fawn Song, had a gentle eminence and was played with a light hand very different from the previous works of Piazzola.

Finally, was the music of George Gershwin. First performed were two songs from the Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire film Funny Face; S’Wonderful and Funny Face. It was so fun to hear the music from one of my favorite movies played in the duo piano repertoire. Also included was Embraceable You, from the Broadway musical Girl Crazy. In keeping with the Gershwin theme, the next song by Percy Aldridge Grainger was a Fantasy on Themes from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” for Two Piano’s. The final number was Gershwin’s most well known composition Rhapsody in Blue. The sisters’ perfect synchronization with four hands on one piano was incredible and the upbeat and jazzy melody was the perfect way to close the show.  

The Duo Piano Mini Festival was extremely enjoyable, and I would highly recommend it. You don’t have to wait for next year to experience the Duo Mini Fest. This years’ summer festival runs from July 9-18, 2010.

For information about these and other events at The Music Institute of Chicago, visit or

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