why is it so difficult to find a classical piano accompanist

February 1, 2018, 11:24 AM · why is it so difficult to find a classical piano accompanist?

someone who can with practice play Pieces like Charles Dancla's air varie no 1 or ravel's tzigane

Replies (29)

February 1, 2018, 11:57 AM · Are you talking professional accompanists?
February 1, 2018, 12:48 PM · The challenge for the pianist in both those pieces is substantially different. I could probably tackle the Dancla with a little practice. Good luck hunting!
Edited: February 1, 2018, 12:56 PM · Talent is rare among all of us, humans. I think is difficult to find any fine performer of almost any instrument. One problem with pianists is that it´s always quite popular, so you have to be very aware who are you performing with.
February 1, 2018, 1:56 PM · It's not especially difficult to find accompanists. You just have to pay them.
February 1, 2018, 2:15 PM · The Air Varie piano parts are not so bad but Tzigane accompaniment is really, really hard.
February 1, 2018, 7:35 PM · You know what pianists are asking on the piano forum?
February 2, 2018, 12:48 AM · I agree with Lydia Leong, why should we expect capable pianists to support our musical projects for free?
February 2, 2018, 1:54 AM · Katherine, exposure of course!


February 2, 2018, 2:33 AM · So-calle "accompaniments" are often very tricky; and not all pianists know how to accompany.
Edited: February 2, 2018, 3:24 AM · There are probably huge amounts of pianists that play at the level that they could play accompaniments, but only a small amount can or want to do it. First, its is tricky, I played at a very high level but I was lousy in accompaniments, it is a different skill. I was by nature more of a soloist than accompanist. And also I didnt really like it, the violinist is the star of the show and the pianist is in a second place, it is quite impossible to make the music your own when there is the star player to do that allready.

Even now, with my daughter, I am not a good accompanist and never do that in public, as I tend to take the place of the leader too much.

But if you are willing to pay, Im sure there are lots of pianists that can and want to do it. Pay takes the grudge of not being the star of the show away, if it is high enough. And pay also gives time to learn the pieces.

I cannot really imagine many or should I say any? pianists just wanting to learn accompaniments just for fun or keeping them fresh just for assisting a violinist for free.

Edited: February 2, 2018, 4:58 AM · Beyond finding someone with the skill, one needs to find a pianist with the inclination to spend their time and talents playing accompaniments and reductions. I have found them more willing to play sonatas.

I have done a lot of accompanying, and I'm proud to say that I've accompanied all of my daughter's violin performances so far. But the Kabalevsky is too hard -- well perhaps its possible for me but I don't have time to work it up -- so if she performs that I'll have to hire a pro. The other thing is that I take short cuts. Yes, all amateur accompanists do. For reductions I especially have used "Frustrated Accompanist" editions. I once went to a recital where a girl played the third movement of the Bach A Minor and the accompanist played what was in the Suzuki book. Even with the lid closed the soloist got buried. The Suzuki reductions are just too busy for accompanying a youngster playing a fractional instrument. One of the Handel Sonatas my daughter performed was a little beyond me and I had to make some pretty drastic edits in my part. Nobody noticed.

February 2, 2018, 5:33 AM · "I didnt really like it, the violinist is the star of the show and the pianist is in a second place, it is quite impossible to make the music your own when there is the star player to do that allready."

I think this is in general a misapprehension -- while it applies in some cases, and often in the presentation, most "accompanied" sonatas have a fair give and take between the parts. Most composers have played keyboards, and assuming that the keyboard role is always secondary is not correct.

Some pianists apply this idea to the name they give their role - 'collaborator' instead of 'accompanist'. Violinist keeping this perspective in mind might have less difficulty finding pianists willing to work with them.


Edited: February 2, 2018, 5:51 AM · Beethoven's "Kreutzer" is a great example of "give and take between the parts", but you really need two players who are both at concerto performing standard to give that piece its best.
February 2, 2018, 7:26 AM · the violinist is the star of the show and the pianist is in a second place

According to Isaac Stern, when the Istomin/Stern/Rose trio performed at the White House, JFK thanked Stern "and his accompanists". He had to be called aside and corrected. Also, Beethoven wrote his violin sonatas as "sonatas for piano and violin". True, for show pieces and encores, the violin might be the star, but for most sonatas it's more like chamber music where both parts are essential to the overall picture (and concertos with piano reduction are just wrong).

Edited: February 2, 2018, 9:12 AM · It is tricky. For the same money, some pianists may prefer to accompany singers where the music might be less challenging. For “music making”, some pianists may feel that the violinist takes too much spotlight.

Edited: February 2, 2018, 8:30 AM · "why is it so difficult to find a classical piano accompanist?"

Because you're calling a pianist an "accompanist," and people are assuming the violinist is always in the spotlight, when the pianist is an equal partner and sometimes the soloist.

Many of the piano parts to sonatas, quartets, and quintets are advanced concerto-level for pianists. String players at the early advanced/high intermediate level might be able to sightread their parts, but it'll take a much more highly trained pianist to do that, and even they may need a couple weeks to a month of preparation.

If it's not going to be musically satisfying (playing with a lower-skilled violinist than you are on piano), plus you are called an "accompanist" and not getting paid, that lowers the numbers of pianists available.

February 2, 2018, 8:49 AM · Catherine Stay did not make at all clear what she wants to do with a "piano accompanist." That is very important information.

Over the past 40 years I have been very fortunate to have had 3 very good pianists who were marvelous sight readers to play sonatas, trios and a few larger chamber works with on a fairly regular basis. I would never consider them "accompanists." In most of these works pianists definitely have the major part. I have used them as "accompanists" for "solo" performances a few times, but sort of embarrasses me to put them in such a subservient position.

I have also had a few rather brief experiences playing with pianists who were not really fit for playing with others. And nice as these people were it was important to make the associations brief.

Things will work if both partners can keep a steady tempo that is fast enough to make the music "work." And in my experience things work even if the pianist is better than the string player, but turn disastrous in the reverse case.

Basically both players must be excellent sight readers and all that implies.

February 2, 2018, 9:04 AM · "Concertos with piano reduction are just wrong"-I assume what was meant is "I do not prefer listening to Violin Concertos performed with piano reductions". Even composers played piano reductions of their concerto works "back in the day", and we all know of Milstein and others doing the same. That it's not as commonly done anymore at recitals doesn't make it incorrect-especially if the composer wouldn't have minded (and suppose it would have been considered a "grievous musical offense"-many Concerto playing violinists won't have easy chances to perform with full orchestra, so piano reductions at least provide something closer to the original rather than no performance at all.)

Of course, I would prefer a Concerto performance with full orchestra. But I would not be musically offended for the apparent "musical crime" of a public violin & piano recital that includes concerto works, be it large scale, or the single movement concertante pieces. Enjoying music is often more important than achieving perfect propriety and/or the ideal circumstances.

February 2, 2018, 9:10 AM · The violinist-pianist duos that actually work on a long term basis are usually married to each other. There are exceptions, but that would be cases where there is a huge reputation asymmetry ( e. g. Ann Mutter and her long term accompanist/collaborator).
February 2, 2018, 9:42 AM · The OP mentioned works at two extremely different levels of difficulty (for both the pianist and violinist), but for both, I think the pianist is traditionally the "accompanist", given the unequal weight of the piano part (even though in the Tzigane it's the reduction of a complex orchestral score). Pianists often hate playing orchestral reductions, so paying them tends to be the most fair thing to do.

In other works, like sonatas, the pianist is much more of an equal collaborator. But as mentioned previously, in those works, the pianist often absorbs the bulk of the difficulty.

February 2, 2018, 9:46 AM · Accompaniments vary a lot in difficulty. It varies from person to person. Plus, regional circumstances should be considered as well when it comes to availability of accompanists.
Edited: February 2, 2018, 5:37 PM · Rule of thumb: Piano accompaniments, in general, are at the very least twice as hard as the violin part, and this assuming the piano part is relatively easy. Seems natural to expect there would be less people that can play the piece than violinists (or maybe there are much more pianists than violinists at that level?).

In any case, if you're willing to pay I'm sure someone will show up.

I would have a year of happiness if you told me the point of the question, because I do not understand why would you ask such a thing.

February 2, 2018, 5:26 PM · To judge by what she's posted elsewhere, she wants a professional pianist to accompany her to record a CD, but doesn't want to pay.
February 2, 2018, 6:34 PM · I just checked her youtube channel. It's hard to give a sensible answer in consideration of OP's circumstances.

Even a gentleman as I is lost for words on what kind of answer or advice should be given to OP.

February 3, 2018, 9:03 AM · "Rule of thumb: Piano accompaniments, in general, are at the very least twice as hard as the violin part, and this assuming the piano part is relatively easy. "

It's a generalization. Some piano parts are huge, like Franck, Brahms, Beethoven and others, but some aren't. Paying sometimes helps. Sometimes it doesn't and they pianist still shows up unprepared. I had this problem in various music programs: even accompaniment majors just wouldn't practice. I think my teacher and I had to even fire one. In my masters, I was paying out of pocket--the accompanist, an older Russian woman, refused to either be prepared or listen to any of my ideas, as if I were too young to be respected (I did my masters at about 30. Every time I suggested something she'd say "we will ask your teacher."

But I have had a couple of very good pianists. I think the key is that you have to look for that 1 out of 10. Or 100. But look at it this way: if you had a list of violinists to call for a gig, how many on your list would actually be competent, responsible, and diligent? Maybe 1/100? I know plenty of very talented string players who can't even show up on time or forgot their stand or got the day wrong or didn't bother to take a look at the processional and screwed it up...

February 3, 2018, 10:06 AM · I am not sure what to say. I have had the experience of an accompanist refusing to play a piece with me once before. The pianist, who had accompany me several times at that point, refused to accompany me on a joint recital program on the Bartok viola concerto, saying she would never attempt that piece. I did however, quickly find another.
February 5, 2018, 10:27 AM · Lydia, I'm pretty sure the piano part is the original for the Tzigane, and the orchestral part was created later.

Demian, I wouldn't sweat it too much (I was curious too). Despite the implications of your research, a relevant conversation has still started up.

February 6, 2018, 5:57 PM · The piano part of Harold in Italy piano reduction MAY be more difficult than the viola part - I think the piano reduction was done by someone of the name of Franz Liszt ...
If anyone's looking for an accompanist, I believe there's quite a good one by the name of Argarich ...
Edited: February 8, 2018, 6:53 AM · "The violinist is the star of the show and the pianist is in a second place."

This will invariably be true when the violinist is a young student. In these cases, I think it's important for the pianist to be paid, even if it's a small amount ($10 or $20) for just accompanying one piece, and for the student to know about those costs. The student can also learn the proper way of acknowledging the accompanist after the performance, and how to refine that acknowledgement if the piece is something like a sonata that would require bowing together. Likewise the accompanist should be listed in any printed program.

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