Piano duets from Hawaii to Holland

Summary of the “Call for Scores: multi-hand piano duets” project from January to September 2011 with links to reviews of selected individual works by living composers.

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Call for Scores of Multi-hand Piano Duets

This was an experimental project to get living composers to submit interesting duets for pianists to play and to get feedback from the pianists on readability, playability, and more.

The first round of sightreading took place in Maui: over 3 separate sessions, Karyn Sarring and Anne Ku sightread the 42 duets accepted. This set was short-listed and some sent to Chong Kee Tan, organiser of the mid-May event in San Francisco to get interest. As a result of feedback, it was decided not to have a sightreading competition but a sightreading workshop with piano soiree instead. The event was not publicised to composers because some pianists expressed reservation in sightreading new works in front of them. In spite of this, two Bay Area composers attended.

To get more pianists to play, Anne Ku took the printed PDF sheet music to the Netherlands to interest pianists to try the music with her. The following pianists (by first name only) in chronological order attempted the duets: Tom, Thera, Brendan, Ahti, Huub, Liesbeth, Carol, and Bart. Anne Ku recorded several extracts of sightreading with Texas-based Brendan Kinsella in early July and 3 studied pieces with Utrecht-based Carol Ruiz Gandia in early August 2011.

Chronology from 31st January 2011 onwards:

REVIEWS OF SELECTED DUETS ## = sample score ** = mp3 or video recording

Steinway Grand used in recordings of multi-hand piano duets
Steinway Grand Model A 188 (1909 New York) at the Monument House, Utrecht, Netherlands used in recording of multi-hand piano duets

Piano duets on five Greek tunes by Harizanos

The most interest piano duet from the set of 5 Greek tunes by Nickos Harizanos is Here Comes the Swallow played and recorded by Anne Ku and Brendan Kinsella.

Something about 5/4 time breaks us out of our expected symmetry of being two-legged individuals.

Like Henk Alkema’s 2nd piano duet, the fourth piece in a set of 5 duets by Athens-based composer Nickos Harizanos also uses 5/4 time. I can’t say Brendan Kinsella and I did it justice in this recording below, but it gives you an idea of the unusual meter.

IV Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos

Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos
excerpt from Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos

Harizanos’s 5-piece set definitely met my criteria in my Call for Scores for Multi-hands Piano Duets for Sightreading: readable, playable, and sightreadable. Short but fun. They are characteristically Greek and interesting to play and listen to.

What a difference it was to play and listen and judge on electric pianos vs acoustic grand pianos. When Karyn Sarring and I tried these on electric pianos in Maui, we thought they had potential. When I tried them with other pianists in San Francisco and Utrecht, we thought they were interesting and fun.

Hopefully I will get a chance to record all five duets. But recording these is not the ultimate objective. I simply want to share good and fun music in my travels.

More importantly, communicating and interacting with another musician through duet-playing is like the way children play with each other. There’s no need for extended conversation. We just play.

Five Piano Duets by Nickos Harizanos:

  1. Out there in the valleys
  2. Down there at the seaside
  3. We have a wedding day
  4. Here comes the swallow
  5. Corfu Dance