Collaborative Pianists

I wanted to blog about a subject I feel is very underappreciated and not discussed as much as it should be…the idea of a collaborator, rather than an accompanist.

Maybe it’s because I began on piano before violin, but I am very conscientious of that big black thing with the golden lettering behind me and its role in the performance, and I feel I learn so much from wonderful pianists I am privileged to play with:

In preparing for concerto performances, sonatas, or in premiering this concerto on Thursday, I have turned to Anita Pontremoli for her help and collaboration.  She is head of the collaborative department at CIM, a fabulous artist, and has a warm, gregarious personality. We have worked on sonatas by Brahms, Beethoven and Franck;  concerti by Sibelius and Brahms;  and numerous short pieces.  Recently, we have spent significant time putting together Evan’s concerto, and end up in stitches about every five minutes, and we can have marathon gossip sessions.  I am in her debt musically for learning from her pacing, artistry, and multiple colors within a single dynamic.

Since the age of 14, I have collaborated with Eriko Izumida on a number of recitals, and Eriko is extremely solid, easy to work with, and our history of playing everything from Beethoven’s D major Op. 12 sonata about 7 years ago to showpieces, sonatas, concerti now has led to many recitals and memories.  Thanks, Eriko!

Though she typically plays with cellists, I was very privileged to play with Liz DeMio last summer in a trio setting.  Apart for Liz being able to learn the Ravel Trio in about 5 minutes (a piece the composer was never able to perform), our Starbucks sessions with cellist Charlie Tyler were a highlight of the summer.  :)  Liz is an equal collaborator in every sense of the word, and has the uncanny ability to sound like an orchestra.  I’m looking forward to doing the Faure Piano Quartet with her this summer.

A few summers ago, I worked with Russian pianist Anna Balakerskaia–Mendelssohn d minor Trio, Tchaikovsky, Chausson, Brahms sonatas–and I can’t recall ever hearing some phrases turned the way Anna molded the music.  She collaborated with Leonid Kogan, Maxim Vengerov, Ilya Kaler, among others, and unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to work with her since, but…someday!

Each of these pianists plays many roles everytime they sit down on an ebony, leather piano bench:  they wear the hats of educator, soloist, chamber musician, accompanist, challenger, inspirer-er (coining that word), and friend.  These lovely aforementioned women have left a huge impression on me, and helped shape the person and musician I am now.  So, next time you sit with a pianist, see what they can bring to a piece you have known for years, and how they can spontaneously inspire a different interpretation every night.  :)


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