Carter Pann, CU Boulder professor and composer, said it best when he referred to Avguste Antonov as fearless on the piano. He might have made it fearless and flamboyant because Antonov was both. Stepping onto the stage dressed in white sneakers and shirt, red trousers, and navy jacket covered in white stars, Antonov hardly needed to advise the crowd that he would be playing a program of American composers. The fact that it was living American composers gave it an interesting spin. It is likely that most of the audience had never heard of these composers, let alone heard their music.
The first piece, “Blue Fantasy” by Robert Rollin, has elsewhere been referred to as “blues combined with a piquant contemporary flavor.” It struck me as a bit jarring and discordant, and I was not alone. The couple who sat next to me found the piece as disconcerting as I did. When we compared notes, we each admitted that when Antonov finished “Blue Fantasy,” we had been concerned that the entire performance would consist of similar pieces. But each piece thereafter delighted more than the one before it.
The rag influence was obvious in many of the pieces, but the influence varied between blatant and subtle. No doubt, the Broomfield audience appreciated that Antonov played a bit of Carter Pann’s own music, and the short, chatty, personal introduction to it by Pann—less an introduction than an endorsement of Antonov—delighted the audience. And if the audience doubted just how fearless Antonov is, that doubt was swept away by his brief but electrifying detour from living American composers when he took a go at George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” during his encore. I have never heard a more robust playing of it. And it made me want more.