Sunday, April 24, 2011

The "Proceed With Caution List" - please, contribute!

Recently, I heard of a trombone student who had to cancel his recital due to a last-minute loss of his pianist.  The reason?  Repertoire, mainly Šulek's Sonata "Vox Gabrieli" (notorious among pianists for its devilish accompaniment).

There's a lot of rep out there that takes HOURS to learn, even for experienced pianists.  Pianists on Facebook (People for the Ethical Treatment of Accompanists) kicked the idea around in a 'Repertoire Difficulty Level' discussion, naming repertoire from their own experience.  I pulled together a list, offering two categories: pieces originally written for piano and orchestral reductions.*

If nothing else, pianists should:  
Double check before saying yes to Hindemith or any saxophone repertoire. 

Originally for piano and [fill in the blank]
Casterede Sonatine, trombone and piano
Creston Saxophone Sonata
Desenclos Prelude Cadence and Finale, sax and piano
Jolivet Chant de Linos, flute and piano
Franck Violin Sonata
Heiden Saxophone Sonata
Ravel Tzigane, violin and piano 
Schubert Variations On 'Trockne Blumen', flute and piano
Strauss Violin Sonata
Šulek Vox Gabrieli, trombone and piano
Weber Duo Concertante, clarinet and piano

Orchestral reductions:
Copland Clarinet Concerto
Dvorak Cello Concerto
Ibert Concertino for Sax
Strauss 2nd horn concerto
Walton Viola Concerto

Vocal lit should have it's own space . . . I may have to do that next.

*Orchestral reductions get their own category because playing them calls for the ability to make an orchestral sound, in addition to the ability to read (and to discern what to bring out/leave out/etc).


Jason said...

Why are we calling this a "blacklist?" Many of the works listed are wonderful pieces that are very rewarding to learn and play.

While much of the instrumental literature is difficult, I don't think it's any more difficult than the standard piano literature. The problem is more that pianists expect to spend less time and energy on "accompaniments" than solo literature. The Creston saxophone sonata is no more difficult than any of the Prokofiev sonatas, nor is the Feld flute sonata.

Pianists often say that they'd rather be called "collaborative pianists" than "accompanists," but this requires a change of attitude on the part of the pianist as well. If someone who plays the 1st Ginastera sonata complains about the Desenclos Prelude, Cadence et Finale, then it's because they're not taking their chamber work as seriously as their solo work.

The solution isn't to "blacklist" certain pieces. The solution is simply to realize that the Liebermann Flute sonata deserves the same attention as Gargoyles. If it takes you 6 months to learn Gargoyles, then it's going to take you 6 months to learn the flute sonata. And if you don't have 6 months, then don't take the gig.

(And for those who assign accompanying rep to students - if you don't think that student could handle Gargoyles in 2 weeks, then don't give them the flute sonata!)

Billie Whittaker said...

How about the "accept with caution" list? Just listing the pieces that take an extra bit of attention.

Unknown said...

Thanks Bill for the great post! I call those pieces "money pieces". (If I know them I can get that gig.) Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata, Poulenc Violin Sonata, Poulenc Cello Sonata, Barber Violin Concerto can be probably added, perhaps?

Billie Whittaker said...

"Money Pieces" . . . YES. I'll add your suggestions in.

Anonymous said...

The Desenclos Prelude, Cadence and Finale, while frightening, is nothing compared to the Denisov saxophone sonata. It's sheer terror. The Denisov two pieces are no walk in the park, either. The Pierre-Max Dubois pieces are bizarrely difficult (they shouldn't be so hard, but they are.)

Anonymous said...

The Dahl Concerto for Saxophone? There is a section in the second movement that is just awful and is usually never correct when performed.