Pianist to mix Bacharach, Manilow with classical styles

Published 10:41 am Monday, February 20, 2017

Imagine if past master composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt or Gershwin could meet contemporary ones such as Burt Bacharach or Barry Manilow. What might be the result? What could they do with the 20th century sounds of the latter two men?

Thomas Pandolfi has an idea — several in fact — and he’ll be sharing them in “Burt, Barry and Beyond” on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 3:30 p.m. The event will be in the auditorium of the Southampton High School.

He’ll perform his arrangements of virtuoso transcriptions of Bacharach’s best-known songs. Chances are good you remember classics such as “The Look of Love,” “I”ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” to name the proverbial few.

Following an intermission will be the Manilow Fantasy, in which Pandolfi will play the songs the whole world sings: “Mandy,” “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Could It Be Magic,” which is based on a Chopin prelude, no less.


The performer said he began playing the piano when he was around 4 to 4 ½ years old.

“My parents used to play classical music in the house all the time. Dad played at church. I was surrounded by music,” Pandolfi said. He added that he’s been told that every time there was a piano performance heard at home, he’d try to play along with it.

His father suggested that maybe he could start some lessons, which suited the boy just fine.

The enthusiasm never wore off.

“I really wanted to play,” he said.

Incidentally, an attempt at violin when he was 8 convinced him to stay with the keyboard; he’s also since played on harpsichord and organ.

Progress in piano lessons was evidently rapid. By 10, he was already publicly performing. At 17, he went to the famed Juilliard School, earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in six years.

While still at Juilliard, Pandolfi has his first experience with Gershwin in what called a unique way. A teacher encouraged him to learn the Second Rhapsody, and he made his debut at the Lincoln Center.

What he didn’t know was that in the audience was Morton Gould. The renowned conductor asked to meet Pandolfi the next day.

“He said very flattering things about the performance,” the performer recalled.

After graduation is when Pandolfi began playing on the concert circuit. He’s since recorded several albums, which include not only what termed “crossover programs,” but also straightforward performances of composers such as Chopin, Paderewski or Liszt.

The latter has evidently been an inspiration for what Pandolfi refers to as as “crossover programs.”

“Over time I started to evolve [my playing],” he said, noting how Liszt has taken Hungarian folksongs and wrote his own transcriptions.

“Why not do that with music that’s closer to our time,” the player added.

There have also been tributes to Leonard Bernstein and Marvin Hamlisch.

To learn more about the performer, visit www.thomaspandolfi.com. For details about the FSCA, visit www.franklinsouthamponconcerts.org.

Tickets at the door are $30 for adults; $10 for students.

Next on Saturday, April 1, Chris Pendleton has been rescheduled to bring both her fiddle and humor. Details will be announced later.