The Bulgarian-born piano duo of Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov are not only musical partners, they’re romantic ones as well — and it shows. On Saturday night at the Library of Congress, the duo put on a public display of musical affection that was not only extraordinarily virtuosic, but also thoughtful, often deeply engaging and crackling with a current of electricity that seemed to run between the two.
The library had rather clunkily billed the evening as “a concert of showstoppers” — with its overtones of whiz-bang piano fireworks — and in a program heavy on Franz Liszt, there was, inevitably, a certain amount of whizzing and banging. But Genova and Dimitrov opened with a sensitive and often delicate reading of Franz Schubert’s Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 103, integrating their parts seamlessly but maintaining their individual personalities. Genova was the more tender of the two, with a subtler touch; Dimitrov provided, as he did all evening, the gravity and driving power.
A bit of fluff from the Russian Anton Arensky followed. Rimsky-Korsakov once predicted that Arensky “will quickly be forgotten,” and the Suite No. 1, Op. 15 shows why: Think Tchaikovsky with a smiley face and you pretty much have it. The program also included two substantial works by Liszt, and whether you consider Liszt a poet of the sublime or a blustering purveyor of razzle-dazzle, the duo turned in impressive accounts of both the “Concerto Pathetique” and the fiendishly difficult “Reminiscences de Don Juan.”
But to these ears, it was Darius Milhaud’s colorful “Scaramouche” from 1937 that really made the evening, an irresistible mix of Latin flavor, French sophistication and Milhaud’s own obvious love of life. Genova and Dimitrov seemed to loosen up and really expand when they played it, turning in a memorable performance.