The art of arranging music for two pianos blossomed during the first half of
the twentieth century in Europe and the United States. Indeed, the sparkle
and richness of two pianos was deemed essential to the success of many
Broadway shows. This trend began in the early 1920s, the most notable
example being George Gershwin’s 1924 hit Lady, Be Good!, staring Fred and
Adele Astaire. Here, the two-piano team of Phil Ohman and Victor Arden
enriched the sound of the pit orchestra and came to define the unique sound
of a Gershwin musical. This same formula for success was repeated in the 1927
show Funny Face. When the show moved to London, Ohman and Arden were
contractually unable to travel with the show and were replaced by Fray and
Braggiotti. Both teams, along with many others, were featured extensively on
the radio from the late 1920s until the 1950s and made two piano music a
staple of the listening public’s musical diet.

Cocktails For Two was written for the 1934 Paramount picture Murder at
the Vanities and introduced by Carl Brisson. For this CD, Frederick Hodges
arranged this wonderful song for two pianos with the aim of imaging what it
would sound like if George Gershwin had composed it.

Begin The Beguine, one of Cole Porter’s most famous songs was arranged
by a young Cy Walter in 1940. From 1944 to 1952, Walter appeared regularly
as part of a duo piano team with Stan Freeman on ABC's popular weekly radio
series Piano Playhouse. At the time he arranged “Begin The Beguine,” Walter
was teamed up with pianist Gil Bowers.

By The Waters Of Minnetonka, composed by Thurlow Lieurance as an
idyllic and poetic evocation of a Native American Indian love song, was
arranged by Zez Confrey in 1927 as a piano roll for the Ampico company
(catalogue number 68091). Confrey made full use of the technological abilities
of the player piano to create an arrangement so intricate and expansive that
not only could it never be played a single performer, but even by two
performers could never be played on a single piano. The sweeping Hanon-like
scales, arpeggios, and broken chord patterns encompass the entire keyboard,
frequently occupying the same keyboard registers where the melody and
ragtime bass patterns appear. Frederick Hodges painstakingly transcribed
Confrey’s arrangement from the original piano roll and separated the melody
from the accompaniment in a way that preserved every note and yet still made
pianistic sense for two pianos.

Dainty Miss is an enormously popular novelty piano solo from 1924 that was
given new life by pianist Jacques Fray in 1943. Born in France, Fray (1903-
1963) met Mario Braggiotti while both were students at the Conservatory of
Music in Paris. After class, they would meet nightly at Jean Cocteau’s famous
night club “Le Boef sur le Toit” and would sit at the two pianos improvising
two piano arrangements of the popular songs of the day. After developing a
style and enlarging their repertoire that contained as much classical music as
popular, they gave a concert at the Salle Pleyel with Maurice Chevalier. The
two came to the attention of a visitor to Paris, George Gershwin, who engaged
them to take over from Ohman and Arden in the London staging of Funny
Face. Moving to New York in 1929, the two-piano team achieved tremendous,
long-lasting success on Broadway, on radio, and in concert halls all over the
continent. Braggiotti wrote all the arrangements for their collaboration, but
Jacques Fray obviously had a great talent for arranging as is evidenced by the
arrangements he published, most of which are featured on this CD. Not only
do Fray’s arrangements make the most of the two-piano format, but they are
musically quite advanced and exceedingly clever.

Deep Purple, composed by Peter De Rose in 1934 as a concert piano piece.
Domenico Savino’s arrangement for two pianos is a masterpiece of the genre.
It features unusual contrapuntal and antiphonal effects rarely attempted in
writing for two pianos. Savino (1882–1973) was an Italian conductor and
composer who studied at the Royal Conservatory of Naples. In the United
States, he also worked as chief arranger and editor at Robbins Music
Corporation. Throughout the 1920s, he was one of the most distinguished and
prolific composers of superb “photoplay” music for silent movies. In 1939,
Deep Purple enjoyed a new life as a popular song after Mitchell Parrish added
lyrics to the main theme.

Doll Dance by Hollywood composer Nacio Herb Brown (1896-1964) was first
featured in 1926 in the Los Angeles stage production the Hollywood Music
Box Revue. It quickly became a standard in the piano literature of the
twentieth century. Jacques Fray’s imaginative arrangement for two pianos,
dating from the mid 1940s is remarkable for its varied tonal colors and moods,
most especially its charming music box effect in the middle of the

In A Mist, composed in 1927 a piano solo remains Bix Beiderbecke’s most
iconic and revered composition. The published version, transcribed by William
Challis in 1928, is fascinating for the ways it differs from the version
Beiderbeck recorded for Okey Records (Catalogue number 40916). Beiderbeck
was a skilled improviser who never played any piece the same way twice. With
this in mind, Jacques Fray’s artistic arrangement for two pianos makes
significant and fascinating departures from the published score for piano solo,
experimenting with new textures and voicings, and expanding the French
impressionistic harmonies to new levels of sophistication and beauty.

Malagueña may very well be Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s most
famous composition. The arrangement for two pianos by Grace Helen Nash
makes full use of the dynamic range of the two keyboards while still retaining
a freshness and lightness that lends a new perspective on the composition.
Lecuona (1895-1963) achieved tremendous success with this piece as both an
instrumental composition and as a song.

Rag Doll was Nacio Herb Brown’s contribution to the piano novelty literature
in 1928 and achieved as much success and acclaim as his earlier Doll Dance.
Jacques Fray’s arrangement for two pianos is strikingly original and clever.

Short Story, one of Gershwin’s rarer compositions, was originally conceived
for violin and piano. Polish-born American violinist Samuel Dushkin
commissioned the piece in 1925 from Gershwin who furnished him with the
manuscripts for two of his unpublished piano pieces: the “rubato” prelude,
which forms the first theme of the piece, and the “Novelette in Fourths”,
which forms the lively second theme. Gershwin had previously recorded the
Novellette in 1919 for the Welte Mignon piano roll company, but the haunting
prelude had not been made available prior to this. Dushkin wove the two
pieces together to create a work of great charm and beauty. In 1943, the two-
piano team of Al and Lee Reiser, who enjoyed great success on the radio,
published their virtuosic arrangement for two pianos of Short Story. While it
seems certain that the Reiser brothers must have performed it on the radio, it
is very likely that the recording on this CD represents the first modern
recording of the two piano arrangement of Short Story.

The Wedding Of The Painted Doll was written for M-G-M’s pioneering
talking picture Broadway Melody in 1929. As always, Jacques Fray’s
arrangement for two pianos, published in the mid 1940s, represents a triumph
of subtlety, humor, and musical artistry.

Variations on Yankee Doodle, Mario Braggiotti’s masterpiece of musical
humor, made its first appearance at least as early as 1930. Fray and Braggiotti’s
1934 recording of the piece for Decca Records (catalogue number 15006) is
nearly identical to the published score, although it is missing the Debussy
variation. The piece was such a sensation that they were obliged to end nearly
every concert appearance with the piece. They also regularly played new
variations on their radio appearances. The variations not only capture the style
of each composer, but also offer judicious quotes from famous compositions
identified with each composer. Over the course of the development of the
piece, Braggiotti composed additional variations in the style of such composers
as Handel, Johann Strauss, Puccini, Liszt, before settling on the five
composers featured in the score, first published in 1949. In 1941, the pair
presented a concert at the Plaza Hotel in New York, produced by Theodore
Steinway in honor of Sergei Rachmaninoff. After playing Braggiotti’s two-
piano arrangements of the “Coronation Scene from Boris Godounoff” and
“Rhapsody in Blue,” they thrilled the audience with Variations on Yankee
Doodle but this time ending with a new “Variation in the manner of
Rachmaninoff.” We can only assume that Rachmaninoff was amused by the
tribute. Braggiotti’s extraordinary musicianship, talent, creativity and
spontaneity enabled him to enjoy a stellar and astonishingly busy career.

Notes by Frederick Hodges and Richard Dowling


Recorded September 18, 2018 at Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland
Model F278 Fazioli 9-foot Concert Grand (played by Richard Dowling)
Model CFX Yamaha 9-foot Concert Grand (Played by Frederick Hodges)
Recording Engineer: Norman Landsberg
Piano Technician: Michael Callahan
Editing: Dix Bruce
Mastering: Bryan Wright
Cover Design and Booklet design: Bryan Wright
Photographer: Gundi Vigfusson & Derek Mueller


We would like to express our deepest thanks to Jim Callahan of Piedmont
Piano Company in Oakland for making his concert hall and pianos available to
us for this recording. Special thanks are due to Mark Walter, son of Cy Walter,
for generously providing us with photographs of his father. We are also
especially grateful to Donald Manildi and Maxwell Brown of the International
Piano Archives at the University of Maryland who generously allowed us
access to the Mario Braggiotti Collection, where much of the research for the
liner notes was conducted.

About the Artists

In recent years, Frederick Hodges’ and Richard Dowling’s duo performances
have become prominent and popular highlights of ragtime and jazz music
festivals across the United States. Their virtuoso classical technique and
extraordinary musicianship combine to create spectacular, emotionally
moving, and memorable musical experiences for their audiences.
Richard Dowling & Frederick Hodges, duo pianists
Rivermont Records BSW-2248