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The piano has been drinking

December 7, 2011

Published by Metro

The performers in “Three Pianos” play 24 songs about a man who wanders into the woods and renounces all human contact. But the music is really all about a boozy night of male bonding.

“The message of the songs can be very sad and lonely, yet what they did was bring a group of people together,” says Rick Burk-hardt, one of three men who wrote and performs in the show. It revolves around a piece of music, “Winterreise,” by 19th century Austrian composer Franz Schubert. In his heyday, Schubert and his poet friends gathered for elaborate parties called Schubertiads to play the songs.

“In a way, we re-enact these parties,” says Burk-hardt. The three men perform the full 75-minute song cycle, complete with singing and choreographed piano configurations. They riff on the original piece and occasionally slip into the persona of the composer and his contemporaries.

Burkhardt and his friends decided to write the show after happening upon an old, water-damaged “Winterreise” score at a late-night party in New York.

“So we played it,” Burkhart remembers. Without intending to, they had recreated a Schubertiad. “All the ingredients were there: A group of friends, this music, alcohol. There was dancing [and] horsing around, and it kept coming back to these songs.”

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