Nothing quite compares to watching a pianist’s fingers fly across their instrument. I’ve been to a lot of concerts, ranging from my grade school cousin’s to Lang Lang’s, and to this day I find a special kind of joy listening to the flutter of ivory keys. I find it no wonder that the piano is such a popular instrument across so many types of music.
André Mehmari’s piano concert for the Kerrytown Concert House, which now hosts virtual events during the pandemic, was nothing short of exquisite, and if you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and watch the recording here. But, listener, please be warned: It is not for the faint of heart. If you, like myself, are prone to music-induced trips down memory lane, his performance may hit you a little harder than most. If there is one word I have to describe it, it is simply “nostalgia.”
From the moment Mehmari’s hands hit the keys, I was thrust back in time. Lost in a world of comforting piano chords, the warm timbre of the instrument had me hooked as soon as he’d begun. Starting off with some of his own compositions including “Chão Batido” and “MayWays”, Mehmari’s talent was acutely apparent within every phrase. Not just his technical skill — which was expert-level in itself — but his rote understanding of the music, the inherent ebb and flow he put into each crescendo and ritardando, meant that he knew precisely what story was being told.
Watching him move, you would never guess how difficult playing to such a level of musicality can be. Without any sheet music or sign of struggle, Mehmari’s music seemed almost effortless, as if it were flowing from him as easily as his breath. A light upper melody juxtaposed with an imposing and grand bass line were recurring motifs throughout the concert, as the music shifted between the two tones without warning. Soaring, beautiful melodies would grow old if left on their own, but the added dissonance of the constantly shifting tonal center made for not one boring moment.
My favorite part of the concert by far was when Mehmari played Jobim’s “Dindi” and “Caminhos Cruzados,” leading to an uninterrupted medley of Brazilian music and music from the Great American Songbook. I was blown away by how much emotion could be imbued through the keys; as the harmonies slipped out of their comfort zone, the sound felt like true yearning in my bones.
The series of songs sent me back to my childhood, during my own days of sitting in front of a piano plunking away. The lighthearted melody gradually grew more frantic and I felt those easy days slipping away like I was growing up as the time sped by, a montage of flickering memories dredged up by the nostalgic, lilting melody.
For a few of his songs, Mehmari was joined by Mônica Salmaso, a renowned Brazilian singer. Her full mezzo-soprano did not float above the piano, but instead intermingled with its sound to create something entirely new. Both artists played off each other nicely, allowing each to be in the spotlight. The inherent chemistry they shared was palpable, and neither took away from the other’s performance.
“I like to make this marriage of music, this bridge, this connection,” Mehmari said during an interlude, illustrating exactly how it felt to listen.
It was an intimate event, performed alone from his private studio in the rainforests of Brazil, and yet it did not feel lacking without an audience: The narrative told by his vibrant sound was enough to fill the entire room, and no applause was needed to know that the songs resonated with the listeners.
“I have this place to dream music, and spread those dreams all over the world,” he said as the concert concluded.
If only for one night, those dreams were certainly felt, and I still feel echoes of them in the back of my mind, shimmering melodies that pull at my heartstrings and unearth long-forgotten memories. If you have the time, give the concert a listen and experience a taste of pure nostalgia.
Daily Arts Writer Hadley Samarco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.