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Antony Clare: Chamber Pianist and Composer

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  • Posted on 18 July, 2014
  • By Lola Perrin
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I do a lot of ‘accompanying&rsquo work for students taking exams and diplomas, but the kind of piano playing I like to do as a professional performer is chamber music, with a duo or trio or a larger group. I don’t see any of this as ‘accompanying&rsquo. The word has a lot of baggage attached to it because it makes the pianist sound like a kind of servant. To me, the piano is always an equal partner and a lot of the piano writing in the chamber repertoire is equally as difficult and challenging and interesting as the solo repertoire. I would say that music where the piano sounds like it is accompanying is often bad music. As a pianist, you can find a lot of equality with the singer or instrumentalist you are playing with. It doesn’t matter how simple the piano part might be. When Schubert writes a song, it‘s a piece for voice and piano, it‘s not just a vocal line with the piano providing the harmony, there‘s a lot more to it. For example, in many Schubert songs, the piano may be playing the same thing over and over again in each verse, but if you look at the meaning of the words and use your creativity, you can make the music different on each verse and so actually bring something to the piano part that isn‘t there on paper. I think all of the truly great pianists played chamber music and felt it was part of their musical life. Then there were the great players like, for example, Gerald Moore who became known as an ‘accompanist’ (and of course wrote the classic little book ‘The Unashamed Accompanist’) and more recent pianists like Roger Vignoles or Malcolm Martineau who perform with singers. I prefer not to use the word ‘accompanist’ to describe such great pianists.

I like to bring little known music to wider audiences; that‘s always been my primary function. I mainly perform composers who are still alive; I really like exploring unfamiliar music, that‘s the driving force for me. If an audience loves the music as much as I do, then that’s great! I also compose when I have time, more recently mainly pieces for bass clarinet and piano for my duo with bass clarinettist Sarah Watts (SCAW). I also compose pieces for bass clarinet choir. I‘m very much a British music lineage composer with influences from Elgar to Birtwistle. (Antony Clare)

For information about forthcoming events for SCAW, visit: www.scawduo.com

Duo Gastesi-Bezerra

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  • Posted on 07 May, 2014
  • By Lola Perrin
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Marcio We try to have a mix of standard and contemporary repertoire in all our programmes. We find connections between the new pieces and the older pieces in the programme. For instance, we may work with a new composer who loves Schubert, so we pair his works with Schubert and somehow that works very well. Or we may work with a composer who uses pentatonic scales so we pair her music with Debussy and that also works so well.

Estibaliz Generally around 30% of our repertoire is new music. We find that when given the chance, audiences like listening to new music, people are often surprised that they like new music so much, sometimes more than the older pieces they may already know.

Marcio I was raised in Brazil, in Santos - a city that had no music except an annual new music festival. The festival is now fifty years old, and at that time it was run by Gilberto Mendes who programmed post-modern music. He was a very open person, a composer who also worked in a bank. The concerts were free and there were usually around seven people in the audience and I was one of them! New music was the only kind of music I'd hear and it always interested me.

In our duo we play around 20 new pieces of music on a regular basis. That doesn‘t count premieres, it doesn‘t really matter to us whether we play a premiere or not. To us the performance is more important than “the premiere&rdquo so we don‘t really count the number or premieres we‘ve done; when we take up a work we tend to play it more than once.

Estibaliz I come from Bilbao. I met Marcio in a summer camp in Spain and then we met again by chance at the Hartt School in Connecticut. We mostly work together but sometimes one of us will play solo if the programme requires it. For example, in our minimalism programme I play a Philip Glass solo piano piece. Marcio We have our roles. Estibaliz always takes Primo

Estibaliz ... yes, he has Secondo, because it‘s he who has the pedal ...

Marcio ... and it‘s easier for me to be quieter than her so I take the Secondo role!

Estibaliz ... Márcio is more into the harmonics, and the chords and the theory, I'm more into the melody and how the music sounds, so it suits both of us to stick to those roles.

Our vision is that playing the music is more important than fame. We like to be in contact with composers, we‘re not really looking for a big international career, with managers, extensive travel, and so on. We love what we do and we‘re really happy we‘re in a situation where we play what we want where we want, it's good to be independent.

Marcio We try to encourage everyone to play new work. My advice is to play contemporary music - Mozart cannot help you. Playing new music is important, it‘s what keeps music alive. The problem with contemporary music is that the fingering and the chords are difficult to get used to, so I'd encourage everyone to start contemporary music as early as possible. The audience is surprised when they hear new music, sometimes they comment that living music is so much better than older music.

Estibaliz Once when we played, someone told me she couldn‘t sleep for a whole night, she was so stimulated after hearing the new music we'd played.

Short bio

Internationally acclaimed Duo Gastesi-Bezerra has delighted audiences for over a decade with exciting programs of traditional and contemporary music for piano ensemble. Billed by the American Record Guide, as “a strong combination, playing very well together — often indistinguishable,” pianists Estibaliz Gastesi and Marcio Bezerra are staunch supporters of new music. They have commissioned and premiered more than twenty works by renowned and upcoming composers.
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