“And now for something completely different ...”

That’s how Marja Kaisla of Piano4 introduced one of her ensemble’s pieces Thursday night at the Center for Rural Development (and no, it wasn’t an arrangement of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus theme), but it also serves as an apt description of the group itself — something completely different and unique from anything else Lake Cumberland Performing Arts has brought to the Center Stage this season.

There aren’t many piano quartets out there — that’s right, that means four people playing four different pianos all at the same time — and the first, as Piano4 noted, was formed over 60 years before this one was with the appropriate name of the First Piano Quartet. Pieces arranged for a piano quartet have to be able to incorporate all of them in a distinct way, and ideally stay lively enough to keep the audience engaged — piano recitals are known for being a bit stuffy.

Not so here. Piano4, made up of four individuals from around the Philadelphia area — the Finnish-born Kaisla, New Jersey high school orchestra conductor Norma Meyer, piano virtuoso and JP Wiles-lookalike Randall Hartman, and the group’s founder John Kozar — chose a wide selection of music to keep things varied and entertaining. If you like more classical sounds such as a Bach concerto or the pianist’s favorite, Chopin, they’ve got you covered; if you’re into the great American composers like Gershwin or Bernstein, you’re in luck (four separate Gershwin numbers were played, actually); and if you wanted to hear “Star Dust” by Hoagie Carmichael, themes from “Carmen” by Bizet, a comedic work for piano by musical funnyman Peter Schickele (in this case, a male-female duet drawn up for the purpose of seduction, which drew big laughs from the crowd), or a number of other things, Piano4 was on the ball.

Each had excellent technique on the instrument, that’s a given. Each was unique, which allowed them to have their own sound — as well as their own look (contrast the animated Meyer, who leaned into the keyboard for emphasis, with the more postured and elegant yet still passionate Kaisla). They made it seem easy to play difficult music, and easy to play together, even when blending the four to bring together the sounds of some of the greatest music was in fact extremely challenging to pull off. Yet all the styles fit together in beautiful harmony, both in terms of music and showmanship — they had to interact with each other (including switching pianos between songs) in order to stay together and also to entertain.

(On a personal note, from the “It’s a small world” file, I came away with an interesting anecdote. I felt compelled to go up to the Piano4 performers after the show and compliment them and share that I had gone to school up in their neck of the woods. They asked which school, I told them the University of the Arts, and Meyer shared that not only had she graduated from there, but a relative of hers was in the class ahead of me in my major in the school’s College of Media and Communication — and after some thought, I remembered exactly who she was talking about. I certainly wasn’t expecting that little twist on the evening!)

The crowd there was too small compared to some of the other LCPA events of the season, but it’s not hard to understand why — piano concerts aren’t always considered the most thrilling things in the world. If that’s why you didn’t go, you would have been pleasantly surprised — and you should definitely check out Piano4 if they return to Somerset in the future, thanks to the efforts of LCPA together with the Center for Rural Development. It was a particularly nice way to end the season of LCPA events — and the “thunderous octaves, rippling arpeggios and scintillating fingerwork” the group’s promotional package promised were all there and didn’t disappoint.

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