This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

The accompanist in the spotlight

Following her win of the biennial Yamaha Birmingham Accompanist of the Year Award (YBAYA) in November 2009, Yshani Perinpanayagam talks about accompanying


ast November, Yamaha Music and Birmingham Conservatoire ran their biennial Yamaha Birmingham Accompanist of the Year competition, with a distinguished

judging panel, including Roger Vignoles, John Humphreys and Simon Nicholls. Following an exciting final event, in which each finalist gave a recital with a singer and another with an instrumentalist, Yshani Perinpanayagam, was awarded the £1500 Yamaha prize and a recital during 2010.

BCM: What has your win of the YBAYA award last year meant for you? YP: It meant a lot! As a soloist I was relatively new to piano accompaniment, so to get that kind of positive feedback from the judge, Roger Vignoles, was wonderful!

BCM: What makes a good accompanist and what advice would you give to young pianists who want to explore it and improve their accompanying skills? YP: As a piano soloist you have to learn to step outside of yourself and listen to the whole. As an accompanist you have to do that even more. When I’m learning something new I work a

lot away from the piano: following a recording with the score and sometimes playing along or even singing the melody part. That helps me find where the breathing comes and learn how the other part works with my own. Listening to recordings of a particular accompanist’s approach with a particular soloist is always helpful, throwing up ideas that I might either follow or discard. Sometimes I may even record a rough version of the other part, so I get used to working with it.


You can find more information on Yshani from her MySpace site:

BCM: What are the challenges and the joys of being an accompanist? YP: Well, it’s important always to be ready to rise to the occasion, particularly when you have an important introduction to play, for example, that sets the piece up before the soloist’s entry and affects everything that follows. Also, working with lots of different people I

have to find new and different interpretations to music I already know, in order to suit each performer’s approach, which can be very rewarding. It’s fascinating, too, that two players of the highest musical calibre will often have completely different views on how to play the same piece. In that way completely different performances can come out of the same piece, which I find wonderful.

BCM: What is your favourite repertoire and why? YP: I love the colours and sounds of floaty French music, particularly Debussy and Ravel. I also love the excitement of performing contemporary classical music and I’ve played quite a lot of contemporary piano works: by the contemporary British composer, Thomas Addis, for example. At Guildhall I tried to involve myself in new music being written by composers there, which was really interesting. Challenging but very exciting!

BCM: What other work do you get asked to do as an accompanist? YP: I did my first repeteteur work last year, with English National Opera on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – a wonderful experience! I was splitting the rehearsals with someone else and we played the two-piano version for the dress rehearsals, which was so much fun. I also play for contemporary dance classes, which I hope to do more of, too.

BCM: What’s it like working regularly with another performer? YP: The dynamic can make it feel more like a duo than as an accompanist supporting a soloist. But I do really enjoy the supporting role that accompanying provides – the idea that I may be helping the other musicians give a good performance. On the day of the YBAYA competition it was very different working with the vocalist, Rhona McKail – who I’ve worked with for a while now – compared with playing with the violinist, Fenella Humphreys, which was great though that was the first time we’d played together.

When you work regularly with other

musicians you have to explore compatibility, not just musically and sonically but also in terms of personality. Sometimes things might go well musically but you drive each other crazy! Of course that can destroy a partnership but can also inject energy into it. I have a couple of regular musical partnerships that I intend to stick with and which I hope will go from strength to strength and last a long time.

Many UK conservatoires offer courses in piano accompaniment. Students wanting to find out more should contact the conservatoires directly for the latest information. Birmingham Conservatoire:

26 Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36
Produced with Yudu -