ON THE ART OF TWO PIANO PLAYING

The art of playing on two pianos is not a modern concept. Ever since the late 18th century, pianists have played together, and competed against each other, on two instruments. Until well into the 20th century, music-making was an everyday form of entertainment, enjoyed in company of friends and family. Composers would write four hand music to play at home for social gatherings.

It was also common for them to dedicate certain works to talented students, with whom they would premiere the work in a salon setting. In the Romantic era, two pianists would have "play-offs" or duo duels, improvising at two instruments facing each other, competing to display their virtuosity and creative prowess, in order to win the favor of the audience. Whether playing together or against each other, duo-piano playing was undeniably an amusing pasttime for musicians and listeners alike.

Today duo-pianism has been specialized into an interpretive art form. Most duos work together intensely for a performance, honing their skills and collectively melding their individual concepts into one convincing interpretation. It is no wonder that many professional duos are either siblings or couples, as it is a great advantage to have a deep understanding of one's duo partner.

As the pianists come onstage for a performance, it is then, despite having rehearsed countless hours to reach an artistic interpretation, ultimately vital for the pianists to preserve the excitement and spontanity of live communication in creating music together for the public.

I cannot imagine a more inspiring composer, in terms of having fun playing together at two pianos, than George Gershwin. With its jazzy beats, soulful melodies, and nostalgic harmonies, his works are as entertaining to play as it is to listen to. His works have at times the right flair for two pianists to show off their chops and at other moments the sentimentality with which the artists can communicate dramatically across the two grands. Many versions of his works for two-pianos were originally for orchestra, or in the instance of Porgy and Bess, for a whole operatic production. When two great pianists recreate Gershwin's lyrical interactions and voluminous orchestral sounds on two keyboards, the effect is absolutely sensational.

Susan and Sarah play the arrangements by Paul Posnak for 2 pianos of George Gershwin's It Ain't Necessarily So during the 2008 International 2 Piano Competition.


 
 

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