Brahms’ German Requiem is a repertoire staple of choirs around the world but usually with an accompanying orchestra. It is not often performed with a two-piano accompaniment.
For our 20th anniversary concert, Robin Walker steps out from his regular weekly rehearsal accompanist role to join King’s School Assistant Director of Music and Worcester Festival Choral Society’s conductor Christopher Allsop at the keyboard.
The fact that experienced organist, pianist, choirmaster and teacher Robin also works at King’s School has proved a bonus.
“Working under the same roof has been particularly useful for rehearsals,” he says. “Christopher and I have not played together before and it has been an enjoyable and very useful experience. Using two pianos throws us a few more challenges, such as keeping the big chords together of particular note!
“Just synchronising everything, particularly in the more energetic moments, takes some practice,” agrees Christopher.
“But it’s such a wonderful score that it’s a privilege to be able to play it on one’s own instrument. Also, working with a pianist colleague like Robin is rewarding, both socially and musically. Both of us working at King’s has certainly made scheduling rehearsals together easier!”
Practising has also required two pianos. “This arrangement uses all of both keyboards, so you would keep crashing into each other if there were two of us at just one piano.” explains Christopher.
However, audiences need not think they’ll be hearing a ‘cut down’ version of the full orchestral score.
“While both of us get a good share of the orchestral writing, very often the independent piano parts are quite different, adding variety,” says Robin.
For our conductor Stephen, using the piano version neatly avoids the possibility of repeating the disaster of the work’s 1867 premiere.
“A timpanist wrongly read an instruction to play at full volume and proceeded to drown out part of the Third Movement,” he reveals. “A contemporary critic wrote that the singers were intent on ‘shouting each other down wildly,’. Maybe they were trying to drown out the percussive din.”