Duet Inspirations

Here is my review of new piano duet books on Music Teachers Helper:

One of the highlights of this year’s MTNA National Conference at Disneyland Resort was undoubtedly the Anderson and Roe Piano Duo Concert. These two superstars of Classical piano have such jaw-dropping techniques, charming personalities, and unstoppable chemistry between themselves as well as with the audience. Who did not leave the concert inspired and wanting to play some four-hand music? Thankfully, Alfred has published some of these fantastic pieces arranged by Greg Anderson himself, so we can try to “recreate the fun at home”!

There are four books in The Anderson & Roe Duos & Duets series (so far). I managed to grab two of them during the concert’s intermission, fighting my way through a huge crowd of fans eager to buy their CD/DVD/Books:

Ballet from Orphee et Eurydice by Christoph Willibald Gluck / arr. for One Piano Four Hands by Greg Anderson

This is the easiest of these four beautifully published new books – at least technically speaking! Because of the slow tempo, it actually is sight-readable! This melody is so “indescribably beautiful” that it needs no introduction. I hope one day Anderson will arrange the minuet part of this famous “Dance of the Blessed Spirits.”


Tambourin Chinois (Chinese Drum) by Fritz Kreisler / arr. for One Piano Four Hands by Greg Anderson

This is not for the faint-hearted! Now we are talking about keyboard acrobatics and two players fighting for precious “keyboard real estate” in true virtuosic-dazzling-hypnotic-Anderson and Roe fashion! This gives us a glimpse of the amount of hard work this dynamic Duo has put into their repertoire. Alfred has classified this as “Advanced.” I think they need a new term for this level: Virtuosic! Not only does it require impeccable technique and sense of rhythm, just working out how to get past your partner in order to get to your notes will be challenging! For those that are brave enough to give it a try, extensive fingering is provided and there is an abundance of performance notes such as “To compensate for the awkward angle of the left arm during the crossovers, these notes can be played more comfortably without the thumb” and “Stand to reach the notes in measures 180-181 and then gradually sit while playing the scale in measures 182-185.” All the instructions are as performed by the Duo and I do find it amazing that they are willing to share their secret. But then having experienced first-hand their genuine personality (I got there early and sat on the front row!) I am not surprised. We may try to “recreate the fun at home,” but I doubt anyone can recreate their magic!

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Two other books which I don’t currently own yet but will for sure get so I can look at the score in complete marvel while listening to their CD/DVD are:

St. Matthew Passion Suite for Two Pianos by Johann Sebastian Bach / arr. Greg Anderson

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A Medley of Waltzes Made Famous in Disney Films / arr. Greg Anderson

This was the last piece in the concert program – followed by four encores! Anderson cleverly arranges “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and “Gaston” into a virtuoso showstopper – at the end the three melodies are superimposed on top of one another! Must hear to believe!

 

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While your average intermediate student may not find the above arrangements accessible, it does not mean they can not experience ensemble playing. Luckily, Alfred has published many new duet books that are suitable for students. During the conference, I was glad to attend the Alfred showcase session and hear some of these duet pieces performed live by their arranger/composer. It was a real treat to hear these Alfred authors playing with such camaraderie and joy: Dennis Alexander, Dan Coates, Catherine Rollin, Gayle Kowalchyk, and Robert Vandall. These pieces are written with the intermediate/late intermediate students in mind, are good repertoire supplements, and develop critical listening skills and musicianship.

Dances for Two – Piano Duets in Dance Styles by Catherine Rollin

 

What Can We Play on Sunday – Piano Duets arr. Robert Vandall

I have been a long time fan of Robert Vandall’s music. This series is the duet version of “What Can I Play on Sunday” – both are designed with the busy pianists in mind who may have limited rehearsal time. During these music conferences, famous composers and presenters are constantly surrounded by people and I usually am too shy to interrupt and just admire them from a distance, but as I was standing in line to go to the Anderson and Roe concert, I found myself standing next to Robert Vandall! I had to take a picture!

Duets from Broadway – arr. Dan Coates

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Duets from the Movies – arr. Dan Coates

Duets of Timeless Standards – arr. Dan Coates

I personally think Dan Coates should be awarded the Life-Time Arrangement Award or something like that! Is there a famous melody he has not arranged?! The popular music world for piano simply would not be the same without him!

 

All of the above new titles share the same mission: celebrating the joy of collaboration! They are worth checking out!

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