June 2, 1995

Letters To The Editor

 
Tags:Letters

Give role of piano the credit it deserves

I would like to comment on the review of Janet Goodman Guggenheim’s performance with the Spokane String Quartet on May 14, by William Berry.

The term “accompanist” is only a “dirty word in the piano world” when the pianist is not an accompanist. Brahms listed the instruments as “Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello,” clearly giving the piano equal if not greater importance than the other instruments.

The same is true of Beethoven’s and Mozart’s Piano Quartets and Piano Trios; and in the case of what are so blithely referred to as “Mozart Violin Sonatas,” a first edition (published while Mozart was still alive) indicates “Six Sonatas for Piano with Violin Accompaniment.”

Even in the area of vocal music, where often the piano is an accompaniment, there are lieder and art songs (e.g., Schumann and Debussy) where the piano actually carries the full melodic content, while the voice part enhances or highlights, but never with the complete phrasing and weight that is accorded the piano.

It behooves a critic to learn the composer’s intent and to understand the degree of prominence accorded a piano part before mislabeling a performance as an “accompaniment,” which in this case, marred the review of Ms. Guggenheim’s fine performance and perpetrated an injustice. Jane Ashlock Harris New York City


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