Author Topic: The term "accompanist"  (Read 853 times)

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Offline (poco) Sforzando

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The term "accompanist"
« on: July 16, 2017, 09:55:12 AM »
There are few musical terms I find more condescending and annoying. “Accompanist” suggests a subordinate receding behind the soloist and dutifully strumming chords while the violinist plays or the soprano sings the all-important melody. But even though in the classical period violin-piano sonatas were published as “piano sonatas with violin accompaniment,” surely in the more mature sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, as well as the Lieder of Schumann and Wolf, it is more legitimate to speak of an equal partnership. And in a case like the Kreutzer, at times an almost combative relationship between the two instruments.

Your thoughts?
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Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2017, 10:34:50 AM »
In theory very true, which is why many featured artists talk about their recital "partners".

In practice, however...let me put it this way.  If Mutter and Orkis give a recital, how many tickets would be bought by people primarily interested in hearing Orkis perform vs how many tickets would be bought by people primarily interested in hearing Mutter perform?

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2017, 11:16:32 AM »
In theory very true, which is why many featured artists talk about their recital "partners".

In practice, however...let me put it this way.  If Mutter and Orkis give a recital, how many tickets would be bought by people primarily interested in hearing Orkis perform vs how many tickets would be bought by people primarily interested in hearing Mutter perform?

I canna say, since I'm not overwhelmingly interested in either. But I really hate the idea of a pianist dutifully tramping on stage in the background while the diva violinist gets all the brava brava bravas. The piano parts in many of these pieces are as challenging and virtuosic as any solo piano music.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2017, 11:30:13 AM »
I canna say, since I'm not overwhelmingly interested in either. But I really hate the idea of a pianist dutifully tramping on stage in the background while the diva violinist gets all the brava brava bravas. The piano parts in many of these pieces are as challenging and virtuosic as any solo piano music.

Right: the pianist ain't there just to make the diva look good  0:)
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2017, 11:54:51 AM »
I also dislike the practice of closing the piano lid when one is "accompanying." This simply muffles the natural resonance of the instrument, and a good player ought to manage a pianissimo if needed with the lid wide open.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2017, 11:57:48 AM »
But Mutter/Orkis is a somewhat extreme case. There are and have been many collaborations with both musicians equally prominent, e.g. Richter/Rostropovich or Casadesus/Francescatti.
And while we still tend to think more of accompaniment in the case of singers, it is usually not like Castafiore and her diminutive and submissive pianist.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2017, 11:58:23 AM »
I also dislike the practice of closing the piano lid when one is "accompanying." This simply muffles the natural resonance of the instrument, and a good player ought to manage a pianissimo if needed with the lid wide open.

Oh, the lid mustn't be closed, agreed.  For some music, the short stick suits, as a kind of coperto color change.  But the default, I agree, ought to be full stick.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2017, 12:16:31 PM »
But Mutter/Orkis is a somewhat extreme case. There are and have been many collaborations with both musicians equally prominent, e.g. Richter/Rostropovich or Casadesus/Francescatti.
And while we still tend to think more of accompaniment in the case of singers, it is usually not like Castafiore and her diminutive and submissive pianist.

Or Florence Foster Jenkins and Cosmé McMoon . . . .
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Offline Pat B

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2017, 05:03:08 PM »
But Mutter/Orkis is a somewhat extreme case. There are and have been many collaborations with both musicians equally prominent, e.g. Richter/Rostropovich or Casadesus/Francescatti.
And while we still tend to think more of accompaniment in the case of singers, it is usually not like Castafiore and her diminutive and submissive pianist.

For live performances, I think Mutter-Orkis more typical than Rostropovich-Richter. It follows from the repertoire. There are many pieces for solo piano, and many piano concertos, so even for Richter and Serkin, duos were just a fraction of their output. (Argerich is another example, but she is even more of an outlier.) The solo violin and solo cello repertoire is smaller, so recitals of those instruments are almost always duos with piano. A pianist can have a top-level career without ever performing in duos. A violinist or cellist really can’t.

If you go to a violin competition, you will likely see at least some violin-piano duos. Only the violinist gets judged, so in this context, “accompanist” really makes sense. That’s even more the case at lower levels in my experience.

I understand where Sforzando is coming from. My solution has been to not interpret “accompanist” as a sign of disrespect.

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2017, 08:35:08 PM »
For live performances, I think Mutter-Orkis more typical than Rostropovich-Richter. It follows from the repertoire. There are many pieces for solo piano, and many piano concertos, so even for Richter and Serkin, duos were just a fraction of their output. (Argerich is another example, but she is even more of an outlier.) The solo violin and solo cello repertoire is smaller, so recitals of those instruments are almost always duos with piano. A pianist can have a top-level career without ever performing in duos. A violinist or cellist really can’t.

If you go to a violin competition, you will likely see at least some violin-piano duos. Only the violinist gets judged, so in this context, “accompanist” really makes sense. That’s even more the case at lower levels in my experience.

I understand where Sforzando is coming from. My solution has been to not interpret “accompanist” as a sign of disrespect.

Yes, but I'm not talking about careers or competitions, but rather the nature of the repertoire.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Offline Jo498

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2017, 11:20:39 PM »
My point was that in many duo performances with piano, regardless of live or recordings, both artists are equally prominent. Of course one can make a career as piano "accompanist" in a way this is no possible for a cellist. But if I look into more recent top level duo performances, Mutter-Orkis seems an exception. Take Argerich/Kremer, Pires/Dumay etc. Of the stuff on my shelves, I have very little with clearly unequal partnerships in duo chamber music, except for Heifetz + subordinate accompanists. There are even rare cases with a more prominent pianist, e.g. Brendel/Brendel in LvBs cello sonatas

And at competitions or with younger violinists it will also often be the case that a very experienced professor will accompany. Such a person would often not be as famous as a flashy soloist but nevertheless a very able and experienced musician. (As are of course all/most who mostly work as "accompanists" only.)
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2017, 04:41:17 AM »
(As are of course all/most who mostly work as "accompanists" only.)

Most definitely. If you want a piano part that is sheer murder to play, try the right hand octaves from Schubert's "Erlkoenig."
https://songpianist.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/my-tips-for-tackling-the-piano-part-of-schuberts-erlkonig/
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Parsifal

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2017, 08:41:23 AM »
One thing that bugs me is soloists that enlist their children to act as accompanist, which only serves to accentuate the notion that the accompanist is subservient to the 'soloist.' There's Pierre Fournier whose later recordings are accompanied by Jean Fonda, who was Fournier's son. And Paul Tortelier, whose later recordings were accompanied by Maria de la Pau, his daughter.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 08:43:20 AM by Scarpia »

Offline Pat B

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 08:43:56 AM »
My point was that in many duo performances with piano, regardless of live or recordings, both artists are equally prominent. Of course one can make a career as piano "accompanist" in a way this is no possible for a cellist. But if I look into more recent top level duo performances, Mutter-Orkis seems an exception. Take Argerich/Kremer, Pires/Dumay etc. Of the stuff on my shelves, I have very little with clearly unequal partnerships in duo chamber music, except for Heifetz + subordinate accompanists. There are even rare cases with a more prominent pianist, e.g. Brendel/Brendel in LvBs cello sonatas

And at competitions or with younger violinists it will also often be the case that a very experienced professor will accompany. Such a person would often not be as famous as a flashy soloist but nevertheless a very able and experienced musician. (As are of course all/most who mostly work as "accompanists" only.)

We are talking about the word “accompanist.”

I did not criticize or question their musicianship, nor did I claim that famous pianists never play in duos, especially when the pianist is the one international superstar who mostly stopped playing solo (Argerich) or is related to the other performer (Pires-Dumay, Brendel-Brendel).

How about Perlman-da Silva? Bell-Haywood? Hahn-Smythe? Jansen-Golan? Ma-Stott?

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that those pianists are inferior musicians or that their musical role is unimportant. But they are clearly less famous than their partners — I think we could safely say that their business role is less important than their partners’. If you don’t like the notion that the so-called accompanist is a musical subordinate then the easiest solution is to not read that meaning into the word.

Here is an interview with Pires, where she refers to one of her teachers as an accompanist. It does not seem to be an insult to her.

Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 08:50:45 AM »
One thing that bugs me is soloists that enlist their children to act as accompanist, which only serves to accentuate the notion that the accompanist is subservient to the 'soloist.' There's Pierre Fournier whose later recordings are accompanied by Jean Fonda, who was Fournier's son. And Paul Tortelier, whose later recordings were accompanied by Maria de la Pau, his daughter.

Not always.  DuPre Barenboim was a marital duo, after all. 

But those are exceptions.  There are very few recordings by Fournier which people buy on account of the pianist involved.

To emphasize the point, think of concertos.  Most often it's the soloist who has principal billing, not the orchestra or conductor, even though they are just as integral to the performance.  And the exceptions are usually those conductors who have "star power" of their own.

Parsifal

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2017, 09:05:01 AM »
Not always.  DuPre Barenboim was a marital duo, after all. 

Not always? Did I imply that Daniel Barenboim was Jacqueline Du Pre's son?

Quote
But those are exceptions.  There are very few recordings by Fournier which people buy on account of the pianist involved.

I am certainly more interested in Fournier's recordings with Backhaus, Kempff and Guilda than the recordings made with Jean Fonda. The recordings made with pianists of international reputation also clearly command a more prominent place in the catalogs than the later recordings Fournier made with Fonda.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 09:36:10 AM by Scarpia »

Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2017, 01:51:09 PM »
There are few musical terms I find more condescending and annoying. “Accompanist” suggests a subordinate receding behind the soloist and dutifully strumming chords while the violinist plays or the soprano sings the all-important melody. But even though in the classical period violin-piano sonatas were published as “piano sonatas with violin accompaniment,” surely in the more mature sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, as well as the Lieder of Schumann and Wolf, it is more legitimate to speak of an equal partnership. And in a case like the Kreutzer, at times an almost combative relationship between the two instruments.

Your thoughts?

Being 'an accompanist' means being as good a performer as any other pro, taking a work load and role that is no lesser than any other. 

I have no quarrel or qualms about the word because that is what the job is, regardless if the part is as heavy duty virtuosic as any major solo work.

Getting it Right Means, all the while you will not get at all noticed or get much direct thanks from the public.  This is part and parcel of the job, the normal terrain: there are, then, from anyone, no excusable complaints or whines.  lol.
To me, the ideal musician's frame of mind is being wholly subservient to the music, and wanting - needing to communicate something about the music, and that is not 'just rendering the score,' but playing it with a clear point of view (or why bother?)

As a reminder, some pianists who are more than often in the virtuoso recital / concerto spotlight revel in accompanying as well as playing chamber works (some of which are equal work load and difficulty of a solo concerto).

Jean-Yves Thibaudet loved accompanying singers.  As a pianist friend of mine put it, "We all love to work with singers. It's because we can't sing!"

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/hzhgDsXd5nw" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/hzhgDsXd5nw</a>

Best regards.



« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 06:37:56 PM by Monsieur Croche »
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Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2017, 01:52:19 PM »
Right: the pianist ain't there just to make the diva look good  0:)

Actually, if the pianist does the job properly, that is exactly what they do ;-)
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 02:05:40 PM by Monsieur Croche »
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Offline aleazk

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Re: The term "accompanist"
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2017, 02:24:23 PM »
...
To me, the ideal musician's frame of mind is being wholly subservient to the music, and wanting - needing to communicate something about the music, and that is not 'just rendering the score,' but playing it with a clear point of view (or why bother?)...

Those being the operative words  :). Indeed, "about the music"... and not "in the music"... and certainly not "about the performer"... or, god forbid... "in the performer"!!!  :laugh:

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