Public Lecture Recital: The duet & the dance: American piano duets

Public Lecture Recital: The duet & the dance: American piano duets

This Public Lecture Recital by Dr Edward Neeman and Dr Stephanie Neeman will include five piano duets by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Samuel Barber, John Corigliano, David Lang, and William Bolcom.

The piano duet genre (one piano four hands) is a favourite for students and teachers alike. Unlike the piano duo repertoire (two pianos), the piano duet was not traditionally performed in concert halls; rather, they were intended for amateurs to enjoy at home, in the company of a few friends. The lighter duet pieces by composers such as Mozart or Schubert are not at the same level of technical difficulty as their solo works. 

The “melting pot” of America during the late nineteenth century and twentieth century provided a rich pool of cultural variety for composers to draw upon. Dance rhythms and Latin- and African-American-inspired music feature prominently in the American duet repertoire. Whereas Gottschalk’s Ojos criollos is a direct transcription of a Cuban dance style, Samuel Barber views the popular music from his childhood through a highly personal, nostalgic lens in his Souvenirs. Like Schubert’s piano duets, John Corigliano’s Gazebo Dances are truly concert pieces disguised as dance music, with great artistry hidden behind a lighter façade. David Lang’s series of “gravity” piano duets paradoxically aim for suspension and weightlessness. before gravity unfolds dreamily through rapidly changing meters like a gentle, sad dance. William Bolcom’s Serpent’s Kiss, a rag fantasy, is a wonderful showstopper for advanced high school students.

Duets are ideal for students who enjoy collaborating. Students will develop their listening skills, as an attentive ear is essential in duet playing. Having only one set of keys (and one set of pedals!) can create challenges in dance music—playing lightly and having clear rhythm and balance are essential. Often players have to adjust fingering or hand distribution to accommodate each other’s space and avoid collisions! Equally, mastering the timing and synchronization at a single keyboard can dramatically improve students’ rhythmic discipline.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk: Ojos criollos, Op. 37
Samuel Barber: “Hesitation Tango” from Souvenirs, Op. 26
John Corigliano: “Overture” from Gazebo Dances
David Lang: before gravity
William Bolcom: Serpent’s Kiss

Updated:  18 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications