Monday, June 16, 2014

The Trap of Specialization

In my one semester of teaching piano in a music conservatory I was advised not to have my students accompany lessons.  Naturally, the first thing I did was to assign to each the job of attaching him or herself to a voice teacher to accompany lessons.

My motive was not to be a contrarian but because I strongly feel that it is impossible to understand the literature for piano solo without immersion in the vocal repertoire.  Perhaps it starts with the Bach Chorales, which we are assigned to study in theory class as examples of four-part harmony.  They are no such thing!  Rather they are paradigms of the interpenetration of tone and text, each voice in each chorale setting revealing aspects of the text of that particular stanza of the chorale.  In most theory classes the relevant text is nowhere in sight, nor does the issue arise.

Once having grasped from the Bach Cantatas how profound this link is, it became imperative to prepare Schubert sonatas by getting to know his lieder, Mozart by immersion in the operas, Brahms and Schumann, Debussy and Faure, in their vocal works.

And now we have people majoring in Collaborative Piano.  Yikes.