“I do a lot of ‘accompanying’ 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’. 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)
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