When Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson met at The Julliard School in 2000 they couldn’t have known that over a decade later they would be playing music together around the world, stretching the boundaries of piano recitals and introducing classical music to a new audience. They did, however, know that the creative chemistry between them was extraordinary.
“Our first time playing together was in the Hamptons,” Roe says. “Just for fun, Greg suggested that we read the music together. It was a eureka moment for both of us. We had an immediate sense of synchronicity that required practically no effort.”
Celebrated individually for their technique and accomplishments, the strength of Anderson & Roe, who perform Saturday, January 21 at the McAfee Center in Saratoga, lies in their combination of forces. A dynamic and fiery duo who are revolutionizing piano duets, Anderson & Roe take on classics, contemporary compositions and pop music staples with dazzling energy and precision. Their four hands, one piano works are masterpieces of arrangement, innovation and choreography.
“There’s something about two people playing one instrument,” Roe says. “You can feel the energetic current happening. It’s more challenging to do a piece on one piano, but it really brings out the power of the work. In rehearsal there are bumps and scratches, and with live performance there are always unexpected things that arise, but that’s part of the excitement.”
Although they are well established in the classical music realm—the duo’s San Jose appearance is being presented by the Steinway Society of the Bay Area and their latest release, When Words Fade, recently reached the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Traditional Classical chart—Anderson & Roe use classical techniques, styles and compositions as a springboard. From there, they move freely into a musical territory where genre classification falls away. An Anderson & Roe performance may include pieces by Radiohead, John Williams, the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson, in addition to compositions from the classical music canon.
“It’s a combination of having profound respect for the tradition of classical music and staying alert to the present moment,” Roe says. “Being true to the spirit of classical music is not what people think; that it’s a serious and worshipful experience. Mozart was very innovative and quite a jokester. He would take popular tunes and make them his own. Beethoven was very much a visionary and forward thinker. These great artists were taking risks and incorporating the pulse of their time into their creations.”
Regardless of the composition, genre or style, one of the duo’s intentions, according to Roe, is to present music in a way that audiences can relate to their lives; not removed like an historical artifact.
“Music and life are inextricably linked,” she says. “We feel that music should reflect our lives; be fun, spirited, playful, but also serious and profound. That is,” she adds, “to pay tribute to life.”