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Music Review

Supové’s not-so-everyday piano performance

Kathleen Supové’s performances are as unique as her wardrobe choices.

ROBIN HOLLAND

Kathleen Supové’s performances are as unique as her wardrobe choices.

Pianist Kathleen Supové has described herself as a fan of 1950s variety shows. And to judge by the opening selection in her New Gallery Concert Series recital at the Community Music Center of Boston Thursday evening, her enthusiasm extends to the commercials. Dutch composer JacobTV’s “The Body of Your Dreams” (2004) pits its pianist against spoken-word samples from an American television informercial about the Abtronic Pro. “Now you’re ready to hear about the latest evolution in the fitness phenomenon,” the voice started off, and to the insistent strains of “Oh my gosh!” and “That’s amazing!,” Supové’s fingers bounced about the keys of her Mason & Hamlin, conveying the frustration, the exhilaration, and the tedium of weight loss before turning lyrical for “the body of your dreams.” The piece is, as JacobTV acknowledges, a workout for the pianist; Supové has the technique to burn off any amount of calories, and she coordinated perfectly with the soundtrack, responding to its every ooh and ahh.

Supové, who studied in Boston with Russell Sherman but now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., likes to push the boundaries of what the piano can do. She’s duetted with the Yamaha Disklavier and with laptops; she’s performed with a bass drum sitting in the body of her instrument. She plays with the New York art-rock band Doctor Nerve. Her latest CD is titled “The Exploding Piano.”

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So though the evening was titled “Everyday Things,” Supové is hardly an everyday artist. Her outfit, a fuchsia leopard-print catsuit trimmed in black, lived up to the Wall Street Journal’s description of her performance wardrobe as “hooker-chic vinyl and leather.” Judy Dunaway’s “For Piano With Balloons” (2012) found her standing at the piano and playing the strings directly — now slapping, now caressing — with two long balloons to create spooky tremolos. In Neil Rolnick’s “Digits” (2005), she was accompanied by audio and video (the latter by R. Luke DuBois) versions of herself playing the same piece she was playing live, the video splintering into 288 tiny images as she intimated a jazzy fugue on the plainchant “Dies irae.”

With their copious literary asociations, the two Debussy-inspired pieces — Randall Woolf’s “What Remains of a Rembrandt” and Daniel Felsenfeld’s “Cakewalking (Sorry, Claude)” — were more interesting to read about than to listen to. That was also true of the miniatures by Mohammed Fairouz and Matt Marks. Supové offered a fair bit of banging and hammering and not much in the way of coloring or phrasing. And Missy Mazzoli’s “Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos” (2007), a tribute to the Swiss author who left Europe for North Africa, suffered by comparison with its quotation from the wistful Andantino of Schubert’s D.959 sonata, music that suggested there’s life in the piano’s past as well as in its future.

Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffreymgantz@gmail.com.
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