She Her­self Alone

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

When pi­anists walk on­stage for a recital, they usu­ally sit down at a Stein­way or a Bösendor­fer or pos­si­bly a Bald­win or a Yamaha. Mar­garet Leng Tan’s con­cert in­stru­ment of choice is just as likely to be a Schoen­hut, a brand that, since its found­ing in 1872, has be­come the world’s most dis­tin­guished builder of toy pianos. She acquired her per­sonal Schoen­hut at a Wis­con­sin barn sale; she also con­cer­tizes on a two-oc­tave Jay­mar up­right, a 1970s model she found in an East Vil­lage thrift shop. These in­stru­ments, which pro­duce their sound from metal bars rather than strings, can emit tones of un­de­ni­able beauty that fall son­i­cally some­where be­tween a ce­lesta and a glock­en­spiel. In this hour-long recital, Tan plays her toy pianos both solo and in com­bi­na­tion with other in­stru­ments or sound-mak­ing toys. Says Aus­tralian-Amer­i­can com­poser Erik Gris­wold of his Old MacDonald’s Yel­low Sub­ma­rine, “I pushed the lim­its of toy in­stru­men­tal vir­tu­os­ity by ask­ing her to co­or­di­nate a bi­cy­cle bell, bi­cy­cle horn, train whis­tle, and toy pi­ano in … a right brain/left brain ex­trav­a­ganza.” Works by John Cage, Ge­orge Crumb, Toby Twin­ing, Ross Bol­leter (for toy pi­ano and ru­ined pi­ano — you’ll have to read the liner notes), and Laura Libin add va­ri­ety to the playlist, and Jerome Kitzke’s The An­i­mist

Child finds Tan sing­ing, shriek­ing, pounding, and play­ing at her most un­but­toned. — James M. Keller

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