Being an organist, I’m not used to playing with anyone except by myself. So playing a duet with someone is at the same time fun and challenging—fun because you hear sounds being played that are in addition to your own, and challenging because of ensemble problems (staying together), and figuring out who has the melody so that you can adjust the dynamics (playing loud and soft) accordingly.
An article from The Chatauquan Daily put it this way: Playing a duet with another pianist is not as easy as one might think. . . . If a pianist plays a duet with a violinist, for example, there’s flexibility to produce sound just because the instruments initiate sound differently. But with two pianos, even the slightest delayed note can sound like a mistake.
Last Christmas, when my sister Margo suggested that we try some piano duets, I found it so much fun that I looked forward to us doing it again this year. In spite of my broken wrist, so far we have had two performances this year— the first on Christmas Eve, and the second, last night when I decided to cook dinner for the family. And even though it was basically the same group of people both nights, we told them that we had been practicing and wanted to redeem ourselves from our less-than-stellar concert on Christmas Eve. (My son Stephen said we sounded better last night! Thanks!)
Here’s last night’s performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,” for two pianos, as arranged by Myra Hess. Bear in mind that I had to alter my part somewhat to accommodate the limitations put on by my wrist splint. The melody trades off between the two pianos.