Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gerald Moore's Singer and Accompanist

Gerald Moore was one of the first collaborative pianists to become both a musical celebrity and champion of the collaborative arts (as both a pianist and writer). Although his playing has fallen out of favor somewhat [Update: see comments below for some strong opinions on the subject], he is still highly regarded as a writer, both for his musical wisdom and sharp wit. Embedded below is Moore's Singer and Accompanist - The Performance of Fifty Songs, via Google Books.


  1. Anonymous1:49 AM

    what do you mean, "his playing has fallen out of favor?" graham johnson finds every chance to rave about moore's playing. martin katz pays a huge tribute to moore in his new book "the complete collaborator." i prefer to listen to moore above all other pianists when i am learning and new song. both his playing and writing are genius and have inspired and continue to inspire me everyday as i work in the profession. mind you, our profession is one that did not exist in the way it does today when he was making his career path.

    in his books, moore writes about seeing concerts where the pianist was behind a screen or offstage. what then could have been more touching than his solo encore of the accompaniment to "an die musik" at his farewell concert? that seems pretty full circle to me.

    sure, maybe he was not a virtuoso. after all, he leaves out some notes in Erlkoenig, but i never knew that from the audio recording. i had to see the video-- and at least he writes honestly about his limitations in playing this song in this very book that you've posted!

    i've heard many people say his playing was soft and small by today's standards. is that really surprising? after all, he wrote books entitled "am i too loud?" and "the unashamed accompanist." (clearly then, contemporary pianists carried shame about being accompanists.)

    grovemusic says the following about him:

    Moore accompanied virtually every eminent solo singer and instrumentalist in recitals and raised the art of accompanying at the piano from servility to the highest prestige. Moore’s strength lay not only in the beauty of his legato playing, his subtle command of pedalling and his mastery of tone colour, but also in his chameleon-like empathy with every musical partner, whether Casals, Chaliapin or a young débutant recitalist.

    what part of that is out of favor? i thought those were the things that we collaborators strived for still today. not to mention the monumental feat of making being an accompanist a worthy thing to do. nor does this quote discuss his uncanny ability to mirror the words of a song in his playing. he is the MASTER of strophic songs--have you heard his das wandern?-- who is better than he?

    i consider gerald moore to be the grandfather of the "accompanist/collaborative pianist" profession. i'm sad to hear that some are so quick to disdain his genius. furthermore, i would certainly expect a blog like this to speak highly of such a seminal, historical figure. to schluff off his playing and point to his writing-- as you did-- is to miss the entire point of his vivid history and, in my opinion, borders on ignorance.

  2. Anonymous12:41 PM

    I do not want to add much, because the previous poster has said pretty much everything that I would have wanted to say, but much better than I could have said it. Thank you.
    I would however like to dwell on something that the previous poster brought up. Gerald Moore is widely credited with having made the role of the accompanist (or collaborative pianist) what it is today. If we are given any respect for what we do, and if we are treated with any degree of artistic equality, it is in large part due to the work that he did and the high standard of his playing. He is indeed a "seminal, historic figure" and I too am disappointed that a blog that aims to advance the cause of collaborative pianists would dismiss his playing as "out of favour".
    The reason I am a collaborative pianist today is in large part because of Gerald Moore's playing. When I was 15 I heard his recording of Erlkönig with Fischer-Dieskau. It changed my life. I decided that I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. That was over 10 years ago, and I've taken a few detours along the way, but 2 years into a freelance career, I still look back on those 4 minutes as being a turning point in my life. And he remains one of my favourite pianists of all time.
    "out of favour"... with whom? Certainly not with me.

  3. Anonymous3:34 PM

    I totally agree with the two previous comments. To lessen the influence of Gerald Moore in the field of accompanying/collaborative piano shows the ignorance of those more concerned with their own place in the limelight. He made the relationship with the other artists take on a human, if not humorous, aspect. Does a title really matter more than working together (collaborating, if you will) to inspire others with the beautiful gift of music?
    We who are blessed to be able share this precious gift with others should remember those who have gone before us to pave the way. We, in turn, should do our very best to pass on the knowledge and pure joy we share each time we have the privilege to place our hands on a keyboard. We could use a lot more Gerald Moores and a lot less DIVAS!!

  4. Agree as well... Gerald Moore was a master, if his sound seems to be a bit dry or too soft, it is because he was never imposing himself over the soloists or music itself. And also most of his recordings come from earlier times, so this can influence that, as well. But he was perfectly focused player, and while he would never become too personal, his performances proves to be timeless - if we now praise Fischer - Dieskau as the king of the Art Song, we should not forget who was behind some of his most sublime renditions, too!