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story.lead_photo.caption Piano phenoms Andreas Kern and Paul Cibis will ignite the stage with their musical feud as Piano Battle debuts Jan. 30 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. (Photo courtesy Mathias Bothor)

Even in email communication to work out an interview with the duo that make up Piano Battle, the duel has already begun. "My name is Andreas, and I am the better pianist of Piano Battle," opens the email correspondence. The pair are based in Berlin, but Andreas Kern performs/competes against Paul Cibis around the world as the two musicians vie for the audiences' hearts nightly.

Even their recommended approaches to the music are opposed:

FAQ

Piano Battle

WHEN — 7 p.m. Jan. 30

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org, pianobattle.com

"In the moment of listening to music, forget all academic knowledge and preconception, simply trust your ears," Cibis asserts.

"And don't limit yourself to your ears. All senses should be involved, there is more to it. Stay curious!" Kern counters.

With "the elegance of classic music, the excitement of rock and the energy of hip-hop," according to South Korea's Newsis, Piano Battle blends iconic classical pieces with improvisation and the spirit of competition as the audience decides the winner. Here, Kern and Cibis answer a few questions for What's Up! ahead of their Fayetteville showdown.

Q. Do you remember hearing or playing a specific piece of music that made you realize you wanted to pursue performing as a career?

Cibis: The first LP I was gifted was "Horowitz the Romantic" and I remember how captivated I was and how I kept listening to the recording on loop. That was the beginning of my love for the piano, but the decision to actually pursue this as a career came much later.

Kern: I had some moments like, when I was 8 years old I loved to play "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin and the "Turkish March" by Mozart. When I was 16, it was more the romantic repertoire like Rachmaninoff or Schumann where I felt, "I will never stop in my life."

Q. Do you have a favorite moment during the show?

Cibis: I love it when we can really surprise the audience and we feel on stage how unexpected certain moments or decisions were. That concerns some planned surprises, but also, for example, when the results of one particular round surprises those in the audience who voted differently.

Kern: The improvisation round, when we play themes given by the audience, that's a moment which always excites me. It shows how diverse the audiences are in the different countries we perform in.

Q. Are you working on any arrangements at the moment?

Kern: Yes, we are busy with arrangements in which we combine classical music with our favorite pop hits.

Cibis: I always wanted to hear a combination of Michael Jackson and Beethoven ... and having worked on quite a few pieces by now, we feel that we started to develop our own musical language in this "crossover" genre. So expect to hear more of that in the future!

Q. What can you turn to to guarantee a victory against your competitor?

Cibis: Any romantic piece by Schubert or Brahms should be my win.

Kern: Exactly, every romantic piece I play makes it obvious for the audience that they should vote for me.

Q. Do you have any techniques or stylistic tools you lean on during the battle to try to push your playing above your partner's?

Kern: My Russian piano technique goes way beyond his soft pianissimo playing, I don't need to do much to win the battle.

Cibis: Well, luckily most people are happy if a pianist does not only play loudly with his heavy hands. And when you see Andreas using various other body parts to play, it's not only me who thinks he is crossing the line.

Q. Do you have an on-stage persona or character that comes out at all when you're in the throes of the competition?

Cibis: In short, our stage personae are natural, we are no actors.

Kern: Piano Battle started when a festival in Hong Kong asked us to perform "together." When we then met to discuss ideas, it was evident right away that "together" would not work. So we took the situation as it was and offered this concept of playing against each other.

Cibis: We are very different in our approach to music making and performing. Our battle might not be too serious, but the differences are real and in that way, the battle is real as well.

NAN What's Up on 01/26/2020

Print Headline: Six Minutes, Six Questions Piano Battle

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