It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Summer Cycle Paths of Seoul 3 (sexify bicycles/flickr)

Musical duets were popularized by the Mozart family. Since that time piano duets became standard fare during the 19th century, particularly for piano teachers and their students. Playing in a duet or an ensemble requires a different skill set that performing as a soloist — and it doubles the chances of a performance going badly.

In that regard a famous musician once quipped that he played solo repertoire because he chose to be responsible for his own mistakes.

This show is about the depth and range of duets.  We hear uncommon parings of instruments and little-known compositions.

Franz Schubert had a very musical family and he'd sometimes write duets for himself and his students. We hear his Fantasie for Piano Duet, played by Christoph Eschenbach and Justus Frantz. Another composition that requires only two players is a piece called throne built for the past. It's a collaboration between Caleb Burhans and Grey McMurray on electric guitar and violin. Others included on the show are Two Pieces for Cello and Piano by Shostakovich, with Piers Lane and Alexander Baillie playing cello. 

Compromise is the operative word when it comes to making music with other people, especially when it comes to pairings of dissimilar instruments. We hear a duet featuring guitarist Sharon Isbin and violinist Mark O'Connor called Strings & Threads Suite.

It's the process of collaborating, compromising and listening to someone else's ideas that is instructive. There's always a give and take.


Eugene J. Bozza: Improvisitation (Saxophone Solo)

Paquito D’Rivera, saxophone



Franz Schubert: Fantasie for Piano Duet in f minor, D. 940

Christoph Eschenbach, piano

Justus Frantz, piano



itsnotyouitsme: throne built for the past


Caleb Burhams, electric violin, voice

Grey McMurrary, electric guitar

New Amsterdam


Dmitri Shostakovich: Two Pieces for Cello and Piano from Second Ballet

Alexander Baillie, cello

Piers Lane, piano



John Cage: She is Asleep (1943): Duo

Arline Carmen, contralto

John Cage, piano



Mark O’Connor: Strings & Threads Suite

Sharon Isbin, guitar

Mark O’Connor, violin



Nikolay Medtner: Three Nocturnes, Op. 16

Laurence Kayaleh, violin

Paul Stewart, piano



Steve Reich: Know What Is Above You

Anonymous 4

Thad Wheeler, percussion

Jim Preiss, percussion

WNYC commissions


Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen

Mulgrew Miller, piano

Niels-Henning Orsted Perdersen, bass

Bang & Olufsen


Johannes Brahms: Clarinet Sonata in f minor, op. 120/1

David Shifrin, clarinet

Carol Rosenberger, piano



Arvo Part: “Spiegel im Spiegel” (Mirror in the Mirror)

Dietmar Schwalke, cello

Alexander Malter, piano


Comments [2]

Diane from north Jersey

The Schubert Fatasie was a beautiful rendering that I had not heard before.Whenever I hear the work I recall a Dutch classical pianist friend of mine and his friend were working it up for a performance when I was visiting. They allowed me to listen to the rehearsal, and I was so moved by it. Both had spent time in mental institutions as unfortunately many other musicians have. I marvelled that these two diagnosed mentally ill people could collaborate on such an incredible work in harmony on one keyboard while many of the "sane" among us can hardly share a highway or a ticket queue.
Thanks for including it.

Sep. 21 2012 09:17 AM
Philip Foster, Organizer from New York City, NY

Just heard your comment recommending playing a musical instrument with others; you might let your listeners know about the semi-monthly Open Music Circle in Manhattan where we having been doing just that for six years now! All details at

Sep. 15 2012 11:22 PM

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