Although the sun was shining through the stained-glass windows of First Presbyterian Church and basketball finals involving both the University of Michigan & Michigan State were raging on television screens across the Great Lakes Bay on this fine Sunday afternoon, unfortunately diverting attention from the miraculous home-court display about to take place, Saginaw born and Los Angeles based David Strouse treated approximately 150 fortunate attendees to a compelling and breathtaking performance of musical dexterity on March 30th, performing the works of Chopin, Bach and Beethoven, along with several more obscure works, in a special Benefit Concert for the Music Endowment Fund at the church.
Although best known for his investment and rehabilitation of landmark buildings throughout the City of Saginaw, coupled with his role as Vice President of Finance for CBS Television in Hollywood, Strouse returned home for a rare performance on both a Steinway Grand piano and the incredibly rare Casavant pipe organ that resides within the sanctuary of the church, proving that while the responsibilities involved with his day-job are no doubt numerous, they certainly deflect nothing away from the meticulous attention to detail, not to mention the agility required to professionally pull off such an ambitious repertoire of material, which Strouse carefully cultivated from the lexicon of Classical music.
As a professional classical pianist, Strouse is among the best I have ever witnessed. When he took to the stage, looking at his watch and joking about the timing conflict between his performance and the basketball playoffs, he decided to begin his performance with what originally was slated to be the encore: a flawless performance of Debussys Clare de Lune, which lifted the entire ambiance and mood of the room up several notches, as Strouse expressively created flows of musical imagery that milked fresh emotion from one of the most breathtaking compositions in the repertoire of Classical Music.
Alternating his performance set between the grand piano and the Casavant organ, Strouse continued with a piece by Eugene Gigout entitled Grand Choeur Dialogue that filled with the room with thunderous sound involving a combination of fluid footwork on the bass pedals, his hands flying around both keyboards, and required the deft eye and quick hands of Gregory Largent, as he assisted Strouse by turning sheet music and setting the organ voicing stops in order to properly color the work as it was intended while Strouse performed.
Next came Etude in A-Flat, Op 25. No. 1 by Chopin, which as far as piano renderings go, flowed with an expressive dynamic that fully explored the musical textures of this piece to their fullest. Indeed, this talent is one of the stronger musical suits of David Strouse.
Throughout the entire cycle of songs, which concluded with Carillon Sortie by Henri Mulet, a fitting organ to conclude his performance, brimming with tonal bells and echoes, Strouse displayed an exemplary understanding not only of the material that he was performing, but the emotional range that it is capable of exploring when performed in such a strongly unique and interpretative manner.
One thing is for certain: if Strouse ever gets tired of his day job, he will certainly have his music to carry him forward.