The piano accompanist is so often undervalued, most certainly underpaid, and often treated with disdain by the very soloist whose performance can be made or broken by the quality and sympathy of the accompanist. It is a special type of performing, one that depends on a pianist's ability to think as two people at once. The accompanist must, in addition to making meaningful music of the piano part, know the musical mind of the soloist.
As Gerald Moore, unquestionably the most sought after accompanist by the reigning soloists of his time, put it in his inimitable way: "The accompanist who 'follows' but does not anticipate is a dull, pedestrian sort of fellow, without electricity, a fallen arch in the march of time."
It is easy to subscribe to the idea of a pianist turning to accompanying due to lack of success. This very idea lies at the base of the lack of respect referred to in my opening sentence. But it would be wrong to do so. Accompanying is a high art and takes a superb pianist, a sensitive and subtle musician, who is capable of creating the artistic context in which a soloist can weave his own magic, a context that is in complete accord with the soloist's conception. No simple task, this.
In several cases we will have the opportunity to compare the work of the piano accompanist in recordings by different singers. I dare say you will be astonished by the difference in the accompanist's approach to the same song as a result of the style and the interpretation of the singer.
As you can imagine based on the general lack of recognition of the following names, the probable only exceptions being that of Gerald Moore, and perhaps Samuel Sanders and Irwin Gage, it is difficult to find examples of their work. I will therefore be adding to this as I find them. I will also be using examples of some performances in which only the soloist is identified (alas the accompanist under appreciated again!) because although we do not know the accompanist, we can still hear the piano part. If all that is achieved here is that someone emerges more interested in and appreciative of the wonder of the writing for piano by the great composers of art songs, I will have earned my wings.
I must confess, however, that I have another motivation for creating this page, and that is my passion for the Art Song.
The list below consists of some of the great piano accompanists of the 20th Century whose contribution to the art song in particular, and music for accompanied instrumental soloists of all kinds, deserves recognition.
Click on a live link to enjoy their art in this unique domain of pianism. But before you do, listen to the following from The Unashamed Accompianist by the piano accompanist Gerald Moore, perhaps the greatest of them all, and itwill help you in your exploration and enjoyment of the music to be heard in this section.
Arnaltes, Edelmiro (contemporary)
Aide, William (b 1938)
Baldwin, Dalton (b 1931)
Bavaj, Lorenzo (contemporary)
Cerné, Charles (early 20th century)
Deutsch, Helmut (b 1945)
Drake, Julius (contemporary)
Gage, Irwin (b 1939)
Hokanson, Leonard (1931-2003)
Ilja, Ivari (contemporary)
Janopoulo, Tasso (1897-1970)
Jansen, Rudolf (b 1940)
Johnson, Graham (b 1950)
Katz, Martin (b 1945)
Lavilla Muñarriz, Félix (b 1928)
Maximov, Leonid (contemporary)
Moore, Gerald (1899-1987)
Newton, Ivor (1892-1981)
Parker, Glenn (1955-2006)
Parsons, Geoffrey (1929-1995)
Ranta, Ilmo (b 1956)
Raucheisen, Michael (1889-1984)
Renzikowski, Bernhard (contemporary)
Rupp, Franz (1901-1992)
Sanders, Samuel (1937-1999)
Solyom, Janos (contemporary)
Ulanowsky, Paul (1908-1968)
Wustman, John (contemporary)
Many of the great concert pianists who were primarily soloists also loved to accompany, often due to a close collegial relationship they had developed with a singer or instrumentalist. I include some of these as the results of such collaborations are often more performances of equals with neither accompanist nor soloist taking a subordinate role.<br><br>Of particular note are the collaborations of Pilar Lorengar and Alicia de Larrocha in the songs of Enrique Granados. There are special magics here.
Ashkenazy, Vladimir (b 1937)
de Larrocha, Alicia (1923-2009)
François-René (b 1952)
Eschenbach, Cristoph (b 1940)
Perahia, Murray (b 1947)
van Renesse, George (1909-1994)
A number of the great conductors also had a penchant for accompanying
from the piano. Their approach can be more orchestral in nature as you
will hear most dramatically in their performances of "Allerseelen" Op 10~8 by Richard Strauss.
Levine, James (b 1942)
Solti, Georg (1912-1997)
Walter, Bruno (1876-1962)
For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background
Murder in the House of the Muse
which is also available as an audiobook.
And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:
Follow these links to our main subject categories