In keeping with this weeks exploration of the easy listening pianists of yore, today I’ve posted three delightful (if you’re in that kind of mood) videos featuring the twin-piano act Ferrante and Teicher, a duo of American pianists known for their clever arrangements of familiar classical pieces, movie soundtracks, and show tunes, as well as their signature style of florid, intricate, and fast-paced piano playing performances. Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher were young Julliard prodigy students when they met in the early 1930s and in 1947 launched a full-time concert career, at first playing nightclubs, then quickly moving up to playing classical music with orchestral backing. Steven Tyler, of all people, relates the story that the two students practiced in the home of his grandmother Constance Neidhart Tallarico. Between 1950 and 1980, they were a major act and scored four big U.S. hits: “Theme from The Apartment” (Pop #10), “Theme from Exodus” (Pop #2), “Tonight” (Pop #8), and “Midnight Cowboy” (Pop #10). They performed and recorded regularly with pops orchestras and in 1973 they did the Hollywood Radio Theater theme for the Rod Serling radio drama series, ‘The Zero Hour’.
There’s something pleasing about the visual of two grand pianos folded tightly into each other, like behemoth lovers trying to fit into a barely adequate bed. And there’s something Ernie Kovacs-esque about the duos similar appearance and demeanor–I keep waiting for an ape to appear with vibraphone mallets and start pounding them on the head. I enjoy Ferrante and Teicher but have never lost myself to them the way I did to Carmen Cavallero (see previous post) or Roger Williams or even Liberace for that matter. They stay a bit too much on the drawing board for me–even in the delightfully square genre which we’ve been investigating this week they sound just a tad too orchestrated. Nonetheless they’re act was wildly successful in its day–the ‘Grand Twins of the Twin Grands’ as they were known were especially fond of movie theme songs as the below clips will attest too. They also experimented with ‘prepared pianos’ ( see ‘African Echoes’ below–a prepared piano is a piano that has had its sounds temporarily altered by placing bolts, screws, mutes, rubber erasers, and/or other objects on or between the strings), adding paper, sticks, rubber, wood blocks, metal bars, chains, glass, mallets, and other found objects to piano string beds. In this way they were able to produce a variety of bizarre sounds that sometimes resembled percussion instruments and at other times resulted in special effects that sounded as if they were electronically synthesized.
Ferrante and Teicher ceased performing in 1989 and retired to the west coast of Florida living near each other and continuing to play, occasionally at a local piano store. The symbiotic nature of the duos long partnership/friendship is reflected in the fact that Ferrante died in 2008 and Teicher in 2009, surviving his ‘other half’ by only a year.