Joe's Blog

I always choose the part “on the left”

March 18, 2018

When I play four hands with another pianist, given the choice, I will choose to sit on the left, and play the “secondo” or lower pitched part.  Why?

The person with the lower pitches  can always insure an overall balance of sound with the person on the right  (the “primo” part) no matter how loud or soft that person plays, in spite of any unanticipated crescendos or decrescendos that he or she might make.

The secondo defines the harmony and thus creates the underpinning that gives definition and shape to the melodies in the primo.

When the person doing the primo is a student, or an amateur pianist, the secondo provides a nurturing, surrounding embrace of sound, that elicits the best playing from the person playing the primo.  The latter hears how much better things are sounding than they thought they would versus when they played their part alone.  In general, the secondo can act as the ideal accompanist, following every twist and turn in the primo: masking inconsistencies, smoothing over unintentional jumps or errors, giving to the primo a freedom that may surprise the player.   I can also do more to influence the musical interpretation of the piece from the left side than the right side.

Lastly, there is the subtle effect of overtones and sympathetic vibration.  The tones I generate in the bass can partially transform the quality (timbre) of sound in the treble.

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