Cello-accompanist for chamber music?
I've been working on the string trio repertoire and got to the point that I would really like to play through a couple. However, while I know a good amateur violist I have been unable to find both a sufficiently advanced and available amateur cellist. Thus, I had the idea of hiring a pro to play with us.
I thought, in these supposedly depressed times of Covid, with many orchestras on ice, that someone would love to do this - after all, it would be a gig where you get to have fun playing. Thus far, however, I have only had rejections and at least in one case the impression I got was that the cellist concerned (teaches and plays intermittently in a semi-pro orchestra) was offended that I asked. On reflection, I wondered if the idea of 'playing with amateurs' was more offensive than 'getting paid to play as a pro'. I tried directly and through organizations but while one expressed some interest, she changed her mind when she had more details.
Is this a radical idea? If I want to practice a violin sonata I can contact just about any pro and quite quickly find someone that fits the bill. Is a cellist-accompanist a weird idea?
Perhaps there is someone here that can give me some insight.
Edit - just to be clear the object here was just to play through the music, not perform it.
Elise I think it's a great idea and I also think your impression of the situation and of the responses of those you've approached is accurate.
I suspect the main problem that pros have with playing with amateurs is that possibility of appearing on YouTube.
Good points Paul - but I did anticipate them. I made it clear it was just for practice and I also suggested that they might serve as coaches. Both of which are quite natural with pianist accompanists. But to no avail.
A few ideas:
It’s probably Covid, but it could be other reasons.
Albrech and Freida - I think I made it clear above (and to them) that I was going to HIRE them. That's what an accompanist is, a paid pro who plays with you. And yes pay them at least Union rates.
"I tried directly and through organizations but while one expressed some interest, she changed her mind when she had more details."
Actually, in that particular case the detail that first came up was that this pro said it was too hard, she was still studying.
What if you made some compromise? Start with one session for example. If you are lucky the cellist will like playing with you and may agree to come for more.
Why not hire a pianist to play the cello part? It could be fun!
Eliae, I'm not sure about your use of "accompanist" in this situation. While an accompanist may be "a paid pro who plays with you," it also has some implication of a subordinate role. Most chamber music is written for "equals," not like there's a star part (1st violin haha) and some block chords going on in the background for rhythm and harmony. If I were trying to hire somebody in this role, I'd just ask them to read the cello part, or play the cello part. Reading it implies more spontaneity.
I have to take issue with the denigration of 'accompanist'. That may be an issue in the string world but my experience with pianists is that being an 'accompanist' is a highly regarded skill attributed only to the elite.
I've played in piano trios for about 40 years, the first 20 as the violinist, the 2nd 20 as the cellist.
Andrew - for a fellow amateur I would obviously never invite someone to play except as an equal. Else why do chamber music? But the problem comes when you ask a pro. If you ask them as an equal you are insulting them for sure, there should be some respect for their accomplishment and also for their profession. So what do you say? You want to make it clear that you are asking them to play NOT as an equal. What I actually said was 'as a pro', 'perhaps as a playing-coach' AND or 'as an accompanist, the same as I would pay a pro to accompany me on the piano.'
Mary - the pianist idea is a cool one. The other would be a bass guitar player. I know they would have no issues of playing.
Elise, I am with you. And I agree with you entirely about "accompanists." The idea that the term "accompanist" embodies any kind of inferiority or shame is something new and very unfortunate. The accompanists who performed with Heifetz, Stern, etc., were proud of their gigs. The professionalism of the accompanist lies in helping the soloist look and sound as good as possible, and it requires a complex set of skills in addition to just keyboard skill. There are some, like Michael Kanan, who still embrace the term.
Thanks for the feedback Paul - and understanding. As you say, I need to get together with a pro cellist and get some advice. However, the violist in the trio has since recruited a very accomplished amateur bass player who is interested. Yes, wow is what I thought too!
I didn't realize that you had proposed a coaching gig. Perhaps you should go to the top and ask a professor about chamber music coaches or cello teachers.
"this is the first time I've heard someone saying that a pro should be happy to take a client due to COVID, and what pride they must have if they don't."
Yes, jobs are down due to Covid. But I don't think one should assume that the pro is motivated by "pride" (that's a word from Elise's post) if they turn down a job and speculate about their allegedly negative attitudes toward amateurs on a message board.
I would still avoid the word "accompanist". Whatever its meaning was in the old age it is hardly ever used these days. And it sounds like "secondary participant" to the general population--and probably to many musicians too. (It is also particularly unfitting for trios where nobody is an "accompanist".)
Although this topic may seem mysterious, it probably actually is not.
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