The Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House was filled with expectant fans waiting on the return of young Hungarian pianist Peter Bence and they were not disappointed. Bence toured to Australia in 2018 for the first time. He has built a huge following on Youtube and Facebook over the past 5 years drawing more than 2 million followers and clocking up over 800 million views of his music videos. Most are his own arrangements of covers from famous pop and rock tunes plus a smattering of his own compositions. Australia is the close of his tour “The Awesome Piano” which began in September in Turkey, trailing through Europe, Russian and the USA. The title of the tour will also be used for his upcoming debut album, already much in demand.
Simply dressed, Bence spoke softly and quickly with a light sense of humour. He played many of his video hits incorporating the wide range of sounds he likes to draw from the piano including pulling horsehair through the metal wires, plucking, lifting the hammers or playing percussion on the top and sides. He said he was aware he was sitting at the Opera House piano which was worth over $300,000, so decided not to kick the underside but didn’t hold back on the rest of the actions. To boost the accompaniment, Bence used an electronic bass drum on one side of the floor pedals and a loop machine on the other side.
Loop machines have such huge potential to expand any type of performance. The writer first saw one in action 7 years ago on a video of Вахтанг Каландадзе (sounds like Bac-tar Kalan-dan-say), a singer/beat boxer who was previously a child singing star in Russia performing his composition “Funky Beat”. A looper can record a set length of sound/music – you might make it 2, 4 or 8 bars for example, then immediately play it back while you continue recording a new phrase. The individual loops can be turned off and on so you might have a simple verse and then a chorus with many more loops added for a fuller sound. Bence knows his loop machine back to front and it was a subtle, seamless operation in adding new lines on queue or to expand a chord while his hands moved ready to start the next section.
He’s a highly competent player holding the Guinness World Record for most piano keys hit in one minute (765). His own compositions are yet to find their own uniqueness still feeling quite nervous and busy but admittedly, he’s modelling his work on some of the greatest entertainers in modern history which, of course, are a hard act to follow.
With the piano centre stage, the rest of the space was filled with an action packed light show, often enhancing, often distracting. There was some crowd participation which always goes down well, plus medleys of favourites from The Beatles, Queen, John Williams and Michael Jackson.
The show attracted a wide age range of people who could easily be attracted into cross over music. It was surprising he didn’t throw in at least one classical piece as tribute to his training but when you’ve accumulated so many followers from so few videos – only 24 videos on his Youtube channel – it looks like he prefers to stick to his specialty.
With a full standing ovation at the close, it’s likely we’ll see Bence return to Australia to promote the launch of the album at a later date.