Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Now that everything is equally accessible at the push of a button we risk losing the sense of the difference between the intimate musical gesture and the public musical event. Some genres are made for household enjoyment while others are clearly intended for public spectacle or mass participation.

Some of the most intimate music was written for duets, particularly piano four-hands. This was meant to be played after a good dinner, with and for friends, probably after a glass or three of good wine and other spirits. A fair amount of this music is downright inebriated. (Schubert's Notre Amitie est Invariable is certainly in that category--even the title is over the top.)

Children taking piano lessons are rarely let into the secret. It makes all the difference in the world, as the emotions accompanying wrong notes are critical in making the distinction between public and private. If public, a wrong note is embarrassing at least. If private, the same wrong note may be endearing.

Perhaps this is why so many pianists really hate to play four-hand music.