Tips for playing in a piano trio?
I was just asked by a pianist in my uni to play Mendelssohn's first piano trio in d minor with her; however, I never played in a trio at that level. My only previous piano trio experience was playing background music from an album of simplified pieces in the first position. Although I can pretty much play the violin part without much problem, I would still like to be cautious and ask the members of this forum for advices. Any tips or thoughts are much appriciated!
This is very hard music. My suggestion is to try Mozart first.
Currently beyond your reach. At that level, explore Baroque trio sonata. They will bring more joy than all the sorows of Mendelssohn.
If you guys would like to try a few short straightforward "salon" pieces in a romantic style in order to get to know each other and come up to speed as a group, my kids have had a great time with the nine "miniatures" for piano trio by Frank Bridge, composed for sisters who were his students, https://imslp.org/wiki/Miniatures,_H.87-89_(Bridge,_Frank). They're fun and pretty decent music, not kids' pieces. They liked sets 2 and 3 the best.
Make sure you can play your part with a metronome.
It is such beautiful music. If you have not listened to it, do so to get some idea of the importance of the dynamic changes and of the emotional range of the movements. The string parts are really not hard so it should be lots of fun if the pianist can maintain tempos. If you can play the notes (in time) it should not be anything to fear. If this is just for the enjoyment of the players - then it should be no problem.
If you can play the music, I think one of the biggest issues as a violinist in a piano is being heard. Especially on big piano works like Brahms.
I thought that was more a teenage thing with my kids Scott :-), I keep telling my son that fortississimo in a Rachmaninoff trio they're working on is only as loud as sounds good as a group, not the volume the piano is capable of :-).
Pianists need to keep the lid down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Andy, Brahms would not approve :-). Legend has it he would play as loudly as he liked regardless of the strings! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cello_Sonata_No._1_(Brahms)#Background
The important question is: Play or perform? If the invitation is just to play that would be great for your development. Performance is a whole different subject and if you aren't sure then don't. Simply clarify exactly what the invitation is all about.
If you watch live performances of professional piano chamber groups, it's not so much about the pianist keeping it down overall (and they don't close the lid). It's about blending. The deep bass of the piano can be strong but not pounding, and the alto and tenor voices carefully integrated. This requires a very high level of pianistic technique.
The piano lid discussion is an interesting one. I mostly agree wth Paul. I would generally advocate half-stick rather than closed, unless your string players have neither adequate instruments nor proper tone production technique. And fully open if you're performing, if possible.
It's unfortunate to close the lid because you lose the crispness of the treble register of the piano. But, if you cannot hear the string players, that's just deal-breaking. I realize what follows may seem unconventional, but this is one advantage of a digital piano -- you just turn down the volume.
It's all about balance and no one on stage is in a position to judge that (even Brahms)!!!
That piece is special for me because I got to perform it at 16 or so with a really fine young pianist.
For piano trios in general -
Agree a heavy piano will overwhelm the strings with music like this. Mendelssohn helps by writing a piano part that isn't overly heavy and lets the violin and cello have their turn.
You have to be aware of the nature of the "pianofortes" that existed when this music was composed!!!!!!!!!
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