John Milbauer
John Milbauer

Novelty is never absent when classical pianist John Milbauer is at the keyboard.

And when the University of Arizona music faculty member returns to Academy Village’s Arizona Senior Academy for a solo recital Tuesday (Dec. 10) at 11:30 a.m., novelty wears both period and contemporary costumes.

As is typical for Milbauer, the program spans centuries. “I find that by playing older music with new repertoire, both repertoires benefit,” Milbauer said in a telephone conversation. “And audiences enjoy this.”

And so, in the something old category, Milbauer has chosen the exuberant Mozart Piano Sonata in D Major, K. 311; and in the old but renewed category, the Bach-Busoni “Chaconne.” A late-19th and early 20th century composer and pianist, Busoni was so identified with his transcriptions of Bach’s Baroque-period music that someone allegedly once introduced his wife as “Mrs. Bach-Busoni.” The chaconne is transcribed from a suite for violin.

In the genuinely new category, Milbauer offers Dutch composer Jacob TV’s “The Body of Your Dreams,” a piece for piano and tape based on an American infomercial for an ab-slimming device.

“I heard it in New York this summer,” said Milbauer, who is on the faculty of the summer program at Chautauqua, “and I absolutely had to learn it.”

What so struck him was the humor of the piece. But it’s not the only fun on his program. We may think chance procedures in music (or dance) are 20th and 21st century stuff, the methods of a John Cage or Merce Cunningham. Milbauer sets the record straight when he inserts a “dice-game” minuet – by Mozart! – into the Mozart sonata he’ll play.  A roll of the dice determines which of 12 possible variants he plays for each of the work’s 16 measures.

“They all sound decent, if not brilliant,” he said.

And who gets to roll the dice? “Whoever looks friendly,” he said. Wear your best smile and come join the fun.

Submitted by Susan Isaacs Nisbett, Academy Village Volunteer



Pianist Milbauer spices the classics with novelty: Dec. 2013
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