Strings and Piano: a sound balance

ICP cr Claudio Papapietro

Producing a nuanced, well-balanced and blended combination of piano and strings can be a difficult performance feat to achieve. Pauline Harding talks to chamber musicians, soloists and teachers to discover some of their secrets

When violinist Mirijam Contzen returned to play the second half of a piano trio concert some years ago, she was surprised to see the cellist grab something from his stand and throw it, upset, to the ground. Only once they took their final bow did she discover what had happened. ‘You wouldn’t believe it!’ she says. ‘Somebody had put a note on his stand in the interval saying, “You cannot be heard. You should tell the pianist that he is too loud.” It was terrible!’ And yet this particular missive, however out of place it may have been, touched on a significant point. In collaborations between pianists and strings, the stage really can become a battleground of sound. A dominant pianist might even reduce a string player’s efforts to a mime of impassioned expressions and flailing arms. Producing a nuanced and well-balanced performance is truly an art…

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