While classical music connaisseurs are accustomed to seeing groups of string players, brass ensembles, or even saxophone quartets, multiple pianists taking the stage together can be a rarer sight. For piano fans, last Wednesday’s 25th Anniversary Gala concert at the Verbier Festival was an exceptional treat, featuring ensembles of up to eight pianists and with as many as three musicians to a single keyboard!
We thought we’d take the occasion to dive even deeper into the theme and explore some of the videos in our catalog with multiple pianists sharing the stage.
First things first, let’s start with a common question: what’s the difference between a piano duo and a work for piano four hands? Both, of course, involve a pair of pianists for a total of four hands. A piano duo generally refers to works in which the performers each have their own instrument whereas a work for piano four hands is typically performed with both pianists sharing one instrument. While we tend to see the former more regularly on the concert stage, both types of pieces have a significant repertoire for pianists to choose from that includes original compositions (like the Lutoslawski piece below) as well as arrangements of well-known works initially written for other ensembles (like Mikhaïl Pletnev’s arrangement of Bach’s Joys of Man’s Desiring, originally a cantata).
Works featuring multiple pianists to an instrument or multiple pianos can also scale to larger ensembles (think Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos) and can even call for multiple pianos, each played by multiple pianists! While the repertoire seems to get smaller and smaller as the number of hands increases, we continue to find both arrangements of well-known pieces and original compositions, like Smetana’s Sonata for two pianos, eight hands…
… or Albert Lavignac’s Le Grand Galop for eight hands sharing a single keyboard!
From piano duos to piano octets, four hands to sixteen, don’t miss the rest of our playlist packed with pianists!