This past week, I attended the SoCal Chamber Music Workshop. After a really inspiring talk, given by Jeffrey LaDeur, I started to think more about my role as a pianist. Allow me to paraphrase.
In his talk, Jeff mentioned that pianists all start out learning to be a soloist. Some branch out into playing chamber music, or other collaborative roles. In solo music, a pianist is a chamber musician playing all the parts. Whatever dialogue that chamber musicians have in a string quartet for example, we are having with ourselves.
Jeff also briefly and eloquently spoke about the treatment of pianists by others. Again, I paraphrase. Often times, pianists are "needed" to play with other instrument(s). Never mind the fact that we probably have more involved parts. We are a "necessary evil," and a desirable quality would be that we could play softly enough as not to intrude on the playing of another.
(I must reiterate, that these are my paraphrasing of Jeff's lecture. I am not representative of his exact opinions and thoughts.)
For a long time now, I have been irked by the fact that some of my colleagues treat me with the afore mentioned attitude of pianists. While in school for music performance, I did not experience or felt quite the amount of disrespect as I have since I've left school. I try to choose jobs and gigs where I am not in a unequal situation. However, that cannot be completely avoided. And it baffles me that musicians & professionals are equally culpable, if not worse than amateurs.
I didn't use to be affected by my title, especially that of "accompanist." Now, I make it a point not to be called as such. Music making, no matter how big or small the part should be about representing its totality. A pianist playing an orchestral reduction is representing the orchestra, making music with the soloist. In such a work, the piano is not any less than a piano & instrumental sonata where the instruments are given equal importance. It is unfortunate and sometimes discouraging that this is still a prevalent attitude, even among professionals. Next time when you find the need to tell your pianist to play quieter, think about the music and find a better way to explain what is necessary in the music.