THIS IS A GUEST BLOG BY DONNA KOH, Music Reader Services Librarian in the Music Section
As a piano teacher, I’ve witnessed countless times how a student perks up when I start playing the teacher’s duet part during their lesson. It’s a great joy to see a smile spread across the student’s face as the simple melody he’s been practicing transforms into a colorful rendition with full harmony and clever countermelodies or into a snappy jazz number that makes you want to dance. I become excited as the more musically inclined students start matching my phrasing, tone and dynamics as we play together, letting me know that they are listening carefully to what I am playing. The reaction of the student is really marvelous- it’s as if someone has suddenly switched on a light, revealing thrilling new possibilities.
Ensemble playing is especially rewarding and fun for the pianists who don’t usually have opportunities to collaborate with other musicians. Furthermore, pianists who are afraid of playing in front of an audience may feel more confident with the support of a partner. For students, ensemble playing teaches some of the most fundamental skills:
- Rhythmic precision: when you are with other musicians, you will quickly discover that your ensemble will fall apart if your rhythm is less than precise or your tempo is unsteady.
- Balance: even a student who normally ignores the teacher’s repeated plea for a clear melody and a soft accompaniment will realize that when he has the melody, he wants it to be heard, not buried under his partner’s loud and insensitive accompaniment.
- Stop-and-go: young students who can’t help stopping to correct every mistake will learn that their partner will be two lines ahead of them by the time they finish correcting their mistakes.
In college, I formed good friendships through sitting side by side with other pianists playing duets. During our first year in college, my duet partner Sue and I worked on Schubert Fantasy in F minor, which was challenging for both of us. Although we were paired up by the professor, we complemented each other well in terms of our personalities and musical skills. We stayed together for three years and played an eclectic mix of works ranging from the arrangements of Beethoven symphonies to music for two pianos by Jean Françaix. During our weekly rehearsals, we were mostly productive although we made sure that we allocated five minutes of our rehearsal time to catching up on school gossip.
Of course, not all collaborations are enjoyable. As a student at a summer music camp, I had a duet partner who shot me dirty looks for every mistake during our public performance even when he was responsible for the mistake. Judging by his cool demeanor, he was clearly a repeat offender who had victimized other unsuspecting partners before. I was only able to retaliate for his rude behavior in a small way: during the performance, I claimed more and more space on the small concert bench we were sharing, leaning over and pushing him aside. He was barely hanging at the end of the seat by the time the performance was over.
Regardless, more often than not you will be able to find a partner who makes each rehearsal both musically rewarding and fun. Powerful musical experiences can be shared through musical works that both partners feel passionate about. I can best describe these experiences as exhilarating, inspiring, and uplifting spiritual moments that nourish not only the musician in you but the person you are.
Do you have a friend who shares your love for piano? Or perhaps, there is someone special you would like to get to know better through music making (this is the oldest trick among music students). Below I’ve listed some of the piano duets (including some arrangements of orchestral music) we have in our collection. You may download them from BARD or call us for a copy. Enjoy!
BRM06512 Christmas Carols (Parke)
BRM00172 First Duet Book for the Piano (Diller)
BRM00045 Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (J.S. Bach)
BRM23507 Piano Duets the Whole World Loves (Wallis)
BRM23897 Classical Duets (Gray)
BRM21415, 30461, 21416, 21417, 21418 Symphonies ,no. 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 (Beethoven)
BRM02491 Jeux d’enfants (Bizet)
BRM25746 Danses hongroises, no. 1-5 (Brahms)
BRM34906 Ungarische Tänze, no. 1-21 (Brahms)
BRM27299, 00109 Waltzes, op. 39 (Brahms)
BRM35880 Petite suite (Debussy)
BRM 26330, 26345 Legends Book 1, Book 2 (Dvořák)
BRM34733 Slavonic Dances , op. 46 (Dvořák)
BRM36056 Dolly, op. 56 (Fauré)
BRM06320 Norwegian Dances (Grieg)
BRM00336 Spanish Dances, op.12 (Moszkowski)
BRM35850 Theme and Variations in G major, K. 501 (Mozart)
BRM34907 Six Pieces, op. 11 (Rachmaninoff)
ΒRΜ 30750 Ma mère l’oye (Ravel)
BRM34392 Military March, op.51, no.1 (Schubert)
BRM34763 Fantasia, D. 940, op.103 (Schubert)
BRM27913 Bilder aus Osten, op. 66 (Schumann)
BRM34719 Le sacre du printemps, “introduction to Part II” (Stravinsky)
LPM00086 First Piano Duets (Kolinski)
LPM00538 Piano duets, Level 2 (Glover)
LPM00169 Duet book (Aaron)