Armas Maiste Piano Concert in Ottawa
Time may not stand still, but can it keep up with Armas Maiste and his piano playing?
Last December Armas invited music lovers in Ottawa to hear him perform classical piano pieces for the last time. As he put it, the time had come for closure on that part of his career and give his hands a rest.
Seasons have come and gone since then and Armas has also celebrated his 85th birthday in the spring, but despite last December’s declaration Armas shows no signs that time is catching up to him. On Saturday September 20th at the Barrhaven United Church in Ottawa, Armas was back to captivate his audience with a concert of classical and jazz music.
Back in December what we failed to understand and what Armas really meant was that he would no longer play only classical music at his concerts. Any classical music would also be accompanied by some jazz. And so the September 20th concert was called “An Evening of Jazz with a Classical Twist” and in addition to Armas, featured saxophonist, Peter Woods, pianist Brian Browne and bass player Sol Gunner who has performed numerous times with Armas.
The evening probably could have been more appropriately called classical and jazz music with a Maiste twist. Armas started his performance with Chopin’s Ballade number 1 in G minor. Chopin’s Ballades, as music lovers know, are among the most challenging and difficult pieces of music for pianists to play. The spirit of the musical pedagogue lives on in Armas and he teased the audience by telling them that he is liable to make a mistake or two as he plays Ballade number 1.
He undoubtedly was challenging us to try and detect any shortcomings in his performance. Armas may well have hidden a mistake or two in his performance, but we ordinary mortals were simply mesmerized and carried away by his playing. The audience, however, was astute enough to notice when Armas, without telling us, glided from playing classical to jazz pieces.
The magnetism of his playing carried us smoothly from the elegant salons of classical music to the vibrant clubs of jazz music. For jazz lovers Armas played pieces by Bud Powell, Bill Evans and Miles Davis. Armas ended the evening, joined by all the other musicians, with a rendition of “Take the A Train”, made famous by Duke Ellington.
As always the piano playing and comments by Armas carry us to places far beyond the concert hall. Only upon reflection later do we realize that we have also learned something new about music, while being entertained. Although time may not stand still for us, we hope Armas will let us catch up to him and allow us to be swept along on the next paths taken by his piano playing.
Photo: Tõnu Onu.