Sarah Rothenberg Inspires Audience

Virtuosi pianists Sarah Rothenberg and Marilyn Nonken performed their creation, "The Grand Gesture," at Kasser Theatre on Saturday night. The duo played works by Olivier Messiaen and Igor Stravinsky’s "The Rite of Spring," translated from its original title in French, "Le Sacre du Printemps." The duo’s rendition of Igor Stravinsky’s original struck a positive response, as opposed to the riot it ensued almost 100 years prior.

Sarah Rothenberg and Marilyn Nonken wow the audience.

Golden Piano Keys
© Jocelyn Baker | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Shortly after 8 p.m., the lights dimmed as Sarah Rothenberg and Marilyn Nonken entered the stage to a light crowd. The pianos faced the same direction, and the women were joined on stage by their sheet music page-turners. What could not be denied was how beautifully the two played together. It was amazing to listen to all of the pieces in unison.

The works of both Olivier Messiaen and Igor Stravinsky were designed to be played by two pianos, and because the pieces were played in such a way, it allowed the audience to reach new levels of listening with this style of music.

Scout Hartley of Neptune took the trip up from South Jersey to see the two live. “I didn’t know pianos could be so dynamic,” Hartley said, adding that the performance was well worth the trip to Kasser.

Just before the midpoint of the show, Sarah Rothenberg’s passionate presses on the keys resulted in a minor malfunction. A string in her piano snapped and had to be replaced during intermission. Despite the event, Sarah Rothenberg showed great professionalism and continued as if nothing of the sort had occurred. Rothenberg played just as well through the ordeal.

One of the event coordinators stated the string broke because “the pianos were parallel.” Within the 15 minutes of intermission, a theater worker replaced the string and the show was back with no delay whatsoever.

The duo did a great job at alternating the leads of the pieces. The dissonance and atonality of the selected pieces did not take away from the experience for Michael Favata. A junior at Montclair State University, Favata agreed that the pair played evenly and that the show did not belong to just one artist.

Favata said the show was “so intensely rhythmic and it [contained] tension for so long.” Despite it’s unusual sound, Favata felt “the rhythm [kept] the pieces together” and that there was a driving “pulse” throughout the performance.

The duo, Sarah Rothenberg and Marilyn Nonken, specializes in an experimental form of classical music, and this unique style has allowed them to stand out in the genre.

Attendees who parked at the Red Hawk Deck located adjacent to the Alexander Kasser Theater did not have a hard time finding spots and only shelled out about $6 for the approximately two-hour show.

Next weekend, the Jasmin Vardimon Company will take over the Alexander Kasser Theater. In the company’s first visit to the east coast of the United States, and for the first time in front of an American audience the group will present their newest full-length piece Freedom. The show will run from April 18-21.

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