- Fugue for 2 pianos in C minor, K. 426: Allegro moderato
- Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven for 2 pianos, Op. 86
- Fantasia contrappuntistica (III), for 2 pianos, KiV 256b
- Sonata for 2 pianos in D major, K. 448 (K. 375a)
At first glance, this seems an incongruous pairing. Peter Serkin, renowned for his "rigorous asceticism" (to quote the program notes), seems almost a polar opposite to Andras Schiff, who is noted for his "ever-thoughtful elegance" and poetic interpretations. Paired together, each of these consummate artists retains his individual voice and approach to the music, resulting in a fresh and unusual "contest of temperaments" -- a marked contrast to most piano duos who strive for consensus in sound and interpretation. The program, centered around the fugue, is perfectly self-contained and immensely satisfying. The Mozart C Minor Fugue that opens the recording establishes an energetic and deceptively complex introduction. The Reger and Busoni works that follow view the fugue's grand tradition through the lens of late Romantic expression (both pieces were originally composed in the first decade of the 20th century). The slow theme of Reger's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Beethoven -- taken from one of Beethoven's Bagetelles, Op. 119 -- is completely transformed by the increasing force and solemnity of the variations. Busoni's "Fantasia Contrappuntistica," inspired by the unfinished final fugue of Bach's "Art of the Fugue," turns the form inside out, "reserving everything fantasy-like for the fugue itself." After the intensity and convolutions of the previous works, the final Mozart sonata serves as a charming palate cleanser; the return to Mozart's sublime classical style completes the circle musically, intellectually, and emotionally.