AIKEN --- Watching the sultry and playful dynamics of pianists Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson are just a part of the treats in store for Aiken audiences during the duo's upcoming Etherredge Center performance.
The Juilliard School alumni return for five performances and master class sessions as part of the continuing Juilliard in Aiken partnership this week.
Roe first traveled to Aiken three years ago as the series began and was joined last year by Anderson, her performance partner and friend of more than a decade.
"We've had such amazing experiences in the past few years," she said. "We're always overwhelmed by the love and generosity."
The ease and personable spirit of the audience during Anderson's and Roe's performances also make Aiken a natural location to debut an original piece inspired by French entertainer Jacques Brel. Mathilde, Marieke, et Madeleine offers an innovative ending to their concert set for Saturday at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
Although traditional interpretations of Brahms will open the performances, Anderson said Mathilde, Marieke, et Madeleine captures the heart of a true performance, which melds the technique of their craft with entertainment and spunk.
Brel's own salon-music-style performances weren't always straight song and lured audiences in through sing-talking and body language. Brel's own emotions are captured through the effect of the piece -- even when that's plucking on the piano's wires.
"There's an extraordinary virtuosity to the piece," Anderson said.
"The effect of what he's singing and the use of language is so inspiring," he said.
Interpretation of pieces that are more physical and interactive for the duo aid in storytelling. A strong friendship that isn't intertwined in romance or sibling rivalry allows them to take on intense pieces, such as a traditional tango, and bring audiences into a sense of danger and physical intimacy and friction through intertwined hands and arms. But they can also turn off the heat for more lighthearted fare.
The trust in each other as creative partners also gives audiences unique performances regardless of how many times they've been on stage performing a piece.
Gazes between the two are a window into their off-stage personality. A change of a run and a quick smirk might be a challenge to the other pianist or inspiration for where to take a piece for future performances.
"Our friendship is over a decade old," said Anderson. "We love to take that spirit of spontaneity on stage."
"The two of us kind of act that way off stage," said Roe. "We value being authentic performers."
Their antics aren't just homage to the days of Mozart and Beethoven, when music was created for evening entertainment, but a true mission.
"Pieces weren't meant to be rehearsed and perfected," said Anderson. "For us it's just as much about the exploration of music."