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The art of piano accompaniment in the instrumental repertoire – a new look at specialization.

Aktualisiert: 22. Feb. 2022

An overview of educational programmes for pianists in higher education institutions in Germany and Austria.




Univ.-Prof. Evgeny Sinayskiy



 


 


In this article, I would like to conduct a comparative analysis of the different approaches to teaching instrumental accompaniment at music universities and the "Higher Schools of Music" in Germany and Austria, and also to present some aspects of the training programme I have developed for piano students.


For the majority of my colleagues - musicians both in Russia and abroad - the concept of "accompaniment in the curriculum at the conservatory" is associated with creative partnership and work with vocalists. The history of teaching accompanist skills to vocalists in most German and Austrian universities goes back more than one decade, and in some conservatories a hundred years. Students can choose between elective and specialized study of the subject, focusing on the accompaniment of operas or chamber vocal music.


The relatively long tradition of teaching "vocal" accompaniment at higher educational institutions in the German-speaking world, in my opinion, is associated with a high demand for professional accompanists in opera houses. In Germany alone, there are more than 80 state opera houses, while the number of non-profit theatres and companies is even greater. Each theatre employs several accompanists (in some large theatres there are more than a dozen) and even now, in difficult times for musicians, you can find vacancies for an opera accompanist. I cannot fail to note the wide spread of vocal education both at the professional and at the amateur level, where, undoubtedly, the role of a vocal "coach" is in great demand.


The history of teaching instrumental accompaniment is not as old as the tradition of teaching vocal accompanist mastery. I should note that in some high schools of music, since the 1960s, students were required to pass a minimum number of instrumental pieces as part of training vocal accompaniment or even as part of teaching a chamber ensemble. There was no single system of requirements, each university independently making its own curriculum.


The situation began to change fundamentally in the early 2000s. Almost all conservatories began to pay more and more attention to instrumental accompaniment both as an optional subject and as an independent educational programme with the possibility of obtaining a diploma of accompanist for instrumentalists.


In my opinion, the change in the situation is associated with the following factors:


- Gradual transition of higher musical educational institutions to the Bologna educational system. The system of bachelor's and master's degrees began to replace the system of standard diplomas we were used to. To obtain a bachelor's degree (as well as a master's), you need to gain a certain number of points that can be "earned" by completing, in addition to training in the specialty, courses in optional subjects. Many universities began to open various additional programmes, including an instrumental accompaniment course. In most cases, this is a half-year course with a free choice of programme and a presentation at the end of the semester. For this, the student receives 1-2 points. If desired, the student can choose this elective in the next semester and so on throughout the entire period of study. This system has its pros and cons. The undoubted advantage is the absence of routine and "obligation" when a student takes the chosen course. With a variety of optional courses offered by universities, students can tailor their programmes to suit their individual interests or preferences for particular teachers. Interestingly, in one small German Hochschule where a course for piano tuners was introduced, this elective gained immense popularity among students - pianists. Even with basic knowledge of piano tuning, students are able to tune their own instruments and can also earn extra money tuning others. In addition, required course credits were awarded for completing the elective. The disadvantage of such a “pick and mix” education system is undoubtedly the absence of consistent long-term training; if a student only studies accompaniment for a semester or at most two, it is very difficult for them to develop a rigorous and strong foundation of skills and repertoire.


- Understanding by the administrations of universities of the need for student pianists to acquire a practical profession. Over the past decades, a certain imbalance has developed: at the orchestral faculty, 1st year of bachelor's degree students receive intensive classes in orchestral training and upon graduation, already have considerable experience in playing in an orchestra. Having won an audition for an orchestra, they have significantly greater skills than pianists who begin to work as an accompanist. Fortunately, the balance between orchestras and pianists is currently being restored.


- The growing importance of the work of an accompanist in the modern system of music education. I would like to describe in a little more detail the role and status of the accompanist to instrumentalists in the musical universities of German-speaking Europe. Administration is conservative. From the very beginning, Austria and Germany placed the work of an accompanist at a significantly higher level than the leadership of universities in other Western European countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and many other countries). Accompanists in Austria and Germany are mainly assigned to specific orchestral departments, often to specific professors and even students. It is almost impossible to imagine a situation where the same pianist works simultaneously in the classes of viola, opera singing and ballet (which is a standard in the Netherlands, for example). The salary level of full-time accompanists is usually equal to the salaries of university associate professors. Such employment conditions allow accompanists to focus on a certain instrumental repertoire, contributing to much more effective creative work between students, accompanists and teachers. The transition to the system of bachelor's and master's degrees has resulted in a major boost to the status of pianists. In the overwhelming majority of German and Austrian conservatories and universities, classes of students with an accompanist have received the status of a separate, independent subject. For example, at the Vienna University of Music and Arts (where yours truly works), the accompanist at the end of the semester gives the student a grade for working with a pianist. In my university, as well as in most conservatories, the accompanist works at least half of the hours prescribed by the curriculum with a young musician one-on-one, without a teacher. The subject "Solokorrepetition" appeared in the curriculum, loosely translated as "Individual work of a student with an accompanist". Changing the status of an accompanist imposes completely different requirements on the pianist. In addition to excellent knowledge of the repertoire and standard ensemble qualities, he must seriously understand the specifics of orchestral instruments, master pedagogical techniques and, in my opinion, possess the qualities of a psychologist. In terms of the level of responsibility and importance, the accompanist becomes an “instrumental coach”, by analogy with a coach in an opera house.


In my opinion, the above factors have led the artistic leadership of higher music schools and universities to the conclusion that it is necessary to teach instrumental accompaniment as a separate subject.

The leadership of each conservatory, when drawing up curricula, decides on its own how deeply it is necessary for student-pianists to study a new subject (and whether to study at all). In the next section, I would like to briefly describe the study programmes in the universities of the two German-speaking countries.


It seems to me advisable to systematize the review of the Higher Schools of Music on a geographical basis, namely, moving from one federal state to another.



 

Federal Republic of Germany

 

Berlin




Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.



 



This university has implemented one of the most interesting programmes for teaching accompaniment, both an elective and a specialized subject. The creators of this programme took a non-standard path. They divided the accompaniment into two unequal components: "Vocal accompaniment of the chamber genre" (Liedbegleitung) and "Opera and instrumental accompaniment with the basics of conducting" (Opern undInstrumentalkorrepetition mit Dirigieren Kenntnisse). Having chosen the second specialization, the student equally studies both opera scores and instrumental concerts, and also masters the skills of conducting in the opera house. In this way, specialists of a "broad concertmaster profile" are trained: a graduate can work both in the opera house and in the conservatory at the orchestral faculty, as well as conduct orchestral rehearsals in an opera or an opera studio.


I would especially like to note: a student can choose instrumental accompaniment as a specialty already starting with a bachelor's degree! Thus, if a young musician "from an early age" decides to devote themselves to concertmaster work, then they have a brilliant chance to accumulate an extensive repertoire and gain experience in this area of ​​music. This discipline is taught by Professor Alexander Vitlin, a former graduate of the Leningrad Conservatory.



 

Hamburg



Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.



 

Bremen



Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

 

Rostock




In the case of an official specialty of vocal accompaniment, the student is obliged to take a course of accompaniment for instrumentalists for two semesters with the obligatory passing of an exam with a repertoire of orchestral instruments.


 

Saxony


 

Dresden



In this university, the training of professional accompanists holds a special place. The student can choose from four specializations in accompaniment: accompanist of instrumentalists, accompanist of musical theater, accompanist of chamber vocal performance, accompanist of ballet. The young musician undergoes a two-year study and receives a master's degree. It is interesting that having chosen the specialization “instrumental accompaniment” as the “main” study (for example), the student is obliged to devote one semester to a related accompanist direction (for example, ballet accompaniment) and to study the basics of conducting at least one semester. This practice seems to me to be extremely useful; a young musician deciding to embark on the accompanist path, can try themselves in different directions of the art of accompaniment in four semesters of study.


 

Leipzig




Optional training is possible only within the framework of specialist piano training, both at the bachelor's level and at the master's level. A student can engage in any kind of accompaniment (instrumental, opera, chamber vocal, ballet) any number of semesters (naturally, not exceeding the number of semesters of specialty training). Thus, a young pianist can independently create a schedule for learning the accompaniment. For example, out of 8 semesters of undergraduate studies, a young musician can devote 4 semesters to instrumental accompaniment, 2 chamber vocal and one semester to opera and ballet accompaniment. The programme is coordinated with the teacher individually.


 

Thuringia

 

Weimar




Optional training is only possible within the framework of the opera accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Schleswig - Holstein

 

Lübeck




This small university pays special attention to the art of accompaniment. A young pianist can choose to specialize in both vocal and instrumental accompaniment. Concentrating on instrumental accompaniment, the student is obliged, along with the "specialty" programme, to complete at least 2 semesters of vocal accompaniment and 2 semesters of methodology and pedagogy. Very reasonable requirements in my opinion; thus, the young musician develops teaching skills, which is necessary for the work of an accompanist in a modern music university.


 

Lower Saxony

 

Hanover




Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Saarland


 

Saarbrücken




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). Studying a chamber ensemble at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Rhineland-Palatinate

 

Mainz




Optional training is only possible within the framework of the opera accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces. As part of an elective, at least one piece on the harpsichord must be performed.


 

Hesse

 

Frankfurt am Main




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). Studying a chamber ensemble at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Baden - Württemberg

 

Mannheim




In this university, students have a unique opportunity to receive a master's degree in “general accompanist”. Vocal and instrumental accompaniment are "equal in rights". The young musician goes through the opera, chamber vocal and instrumental repertoire in equal proportions. As mandatory electives, there are six-month courses in harpsichord, ballet accompaniment and chamber music.


 

Stuttgart




In Stuttgart, as well as in Mannheim, students have a unique opportunity to obtain a master's degree in “general accompanist”. Vocal and instrumental accompaniment are "equal in rights". The young musician goes through the opera, chamber vocal and instrumental repertoire in equal proportions. Six-month courses in improvisation, Italian and chamber music are provided as mandatory electives.


 

Trossingen



Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). Studying a chamber ensemble at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Karlsruhe



Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Bavaria


 

Munich




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Augsburg




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized solo piano course. (at the master's degree). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Nuremberg




Students have the opportunity to specialize in instrumental accompaniment not only at the master's level, but already at the bachelor's level. Thus, if a young musician "from an early age" decides to devote themselves to concertmaster work, then they have a brilliant chance to accumulate an extensive repertoire and gain experience in this area of ​​music. This specialization has been offered since 2015.


 

Würzburg




Instrumental accompaniment in this university has been raised to the rank of a mandatory elective and at bachelor's and master's degree level. We can draw an analogy with the Russian music education system. In addition to instrumental accompaniment, students are required to take a course in vocal accompanist mastery.


 

North Rhine - Westphalia


 

Detmold




Optional training is only possible within the framework of specialized piano training (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Düsseldorf




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Cologne




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Essen



I would like to tell you more about the training programme at this prestigious educational institution, not least because your humble servant has been teaching here since 2010. I was lucky to be the founder of this programme at the university and, together with its administration, to develop a plan and curriculum. I had the good fortune to receive carte blanche from the dean to implement ideas; a rare creative opportunity in a renowned educational institution with a long history and traditions to create a new programme and express my pedagogical aspirations and ideas in it.


Having worked since 2000 in various higher educational institutions in Europe (conservatories in Russia, Finland, Germany and Austria), I have a contradictory opinion. On the one hand, universities of music, academies and conservatories harmoniously and competently develop young musicians, educate them as artists and personalities and prepare them for teaching careers. If the situation at the orchestral faculty over the past 20 years has changed towards objective reality, the situation for pianists, on the contrary, is very sad. Let's be frank - alone from just the German-speaking higher schools of music, hundreds of pianists graduate every year and, sadly, the overwhelming majority of them will NOT find work in their area of specialty - they will be forced to change their profession. Disappointment in life, in oneself and depression are, alas, all-too-common difficulties faced in the "post-university" life of young musicians.


With the intention of mitigating these difficulties and improving the prospects of graduates finding work and establishing careers in their specialty, I focused on the selection process of young applicants. The administration of the University of Folkwang met me halfway and allowed me to admit only those students who, in my opinion and the opinion of my esteemed colleagues and members of the admissions committee, have good chances of getting work as an accompanist early on, upon graduation.


In recent years, the competition for admission is 8-10 people per place. The professional successes of graduates cannot but rejoice: on average, two out of three my graduate students are already working in their specialty at the leading universities in Austria, Germany, China, Japan, Russia, and Switzerland.


I will briefly outline the curriculum at the University of Folkwang:


1. Individual choice of the curriculum for each specific student. A young musician can concentrate on the accompaniment of strings or wind instruments, can master a balanced repertoire (strings and winds), can focus on the repertoire for children's music schools. In accordance with the chosen programme, a basic repertoire is formed, which must be studied. On average, this is 10-15 concerts, about 10 sonatas, 10-15 concert pieces.


2. In accordance with the chosen instrumental direction, the student is given the opportunity of educational accompanist practice in the classes of the conservatory. In addition to developing the skills of working in an instrumental class, a young pianist has the chance to establish contact with an instrumentalist professor, which often contributes to the further development of their career.


3. A minimum of two semesters of chamber ensemble lessons in large groups (from trios) are required.


4. Highly recommended: 2 semesters of vocal accompaniment lessons.


5. I personally devote a lot of time to the psychological preparation of the work as an accompanist. I focus on the typical problems of instrumentalists, on the peculiarities of preparation for competitions in the orchestra, on the interaction in the student-teacher-accompanist triangle.


6. In connection with the Covid-19 pandemic, I considered it necessary to mention the programme of training in online accompaniment skills as an ability to record backing tracks of the basic repertoire for instrumentalists, as well as the ability to work with computer programs for synchronizing audio and video files.


My task is to prepare young specialists who love their work and their partners-instrumentalists, who own the main repertoire of the selected group of instruments, who are open-minded, progressive-thinking and psychologically stable, ready for all kinds of surprises in the modern world.


 

Austria


 

Vienna





Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying, a student can go through several instrumental works.




I would like to tell you more about the instrumental accompaniment programme at this university, since for the past 11 years I have had the honour of teaching a chamber ensemble at MUK. The accompaniment class is taught by Professor Denise Benda, a brilliant professional, subtle musician and my respected colleague. This specialization (two-year master's course) has been open to students since 2009, during which time about 50 young pianists have received their master's degrees, many of whom are successfully working in conservatories in Europe and Asia.


The training programme is very intensive. A student who has successfully passed the entrance exams, chooses, together with the professor, the direction of study - accompaniment to wind or string instruments. Choosing, for example, the specialization of accompaniment for string players, a young musician not only goes through the main string repertoire, but also has a unique opportunity to practise in the classes of leading professors, for example, in the classes of Prof. Kuschnir, Prof. Vernikov, Prof. Gutman, who teach at our university. In addition to the "specialty", students are required to complete a course (2 semesters each) of vocal accompaniment, opera accompaniment, the basics of conducting and reading scores. MUK constantly holds workshops on sight-reading, as well as the so-called training sessions for string and brass players for admission to the orchestra, where piano parts are performed by student instrumental accompanists. After four semesters of such intensive training, the young musician is ready to work in the modern realities of the world (and market) of music.


 

Salzburg




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Graz




At the beginning of 2021, the university administration decided to establish a new curriculum - the Master of instrumental accompaniment. The process of choosing a teacher on a competitive basis is underway. According to preliminary data, 80 candidates have applied for one teaching position. This is a typical picture in the modern European teaching vacancy market.


 

Linz, Eisenstadt, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt



In the higher educational institutions of these cities, teaching instrumental, vocal and operatic accompaniment is poorly developed. Students can only do accompaniment as an elective course, the solo piano programme. Usually, the teachers of this elective are pianist professors who teach the special piano course.



 


The work on this article revealed for me personally a positive trend in the development of instrumental accompaniment mastery in Austria and Germany. There is a clear understanding on the part of the leadership of higher educational institutions of the difficulties in establishing a professional musical future among graduates of higher music schools.

I cannot fail to note the development of an individual approach to the professional development of students on the part of the administration and teachers of higher music schools.


A young musician who wants to follow the path of accompanist has the opportunity to choose from a dozen eminent universities offering a variety of educational programmes that suit the young musician personally.

It is encouraging to support the development of the specialization of instrumental accompaniment both on the part of university administrations and among the teaching staff and students.


I personally warmly welcome new training options for young musicians; thanks to the possibility of in-depth study of the accompaniment, they open up new prospects for both musical development and personal development, opportunities for creative communication, the chances of employment increase dramatically, and, perhaps most importantly, young musicians can more fully realize themselves as performers on the concert stage.



 

Univ. Prof. Evgeny Sinayskiy

July 2021In this article, I would like to conduct a comparative analysis of the different approaches to teaching instrumental accompaniment at music universities and the "Higher Schools of Music" in Germany and Austria, and also to present some aspects of the training programme I have developed for piano students.


For the majority of my colleagues - musicians both in Russia and abroad - the concept of "accompaniment in the curriculum at the conservatory" is associated with creative partnership and work with vocalists. The history of teaching accompanist skills to vocalists in most German and Austrian universities goes back more than one decade, and in some conservatories a hundred years. Students can choose between elective and specialized study of the subject, focusing on the accompaniment of operas or chamber vocal music.


The relatively long tradition of teaching "vocal" accompaniment at higher educational institutions in the German-speaking world, in my opinion, is associated with a high demand for professional accompanists in opera houses. In Germany alone, there are more than 80 state opera houses, while the number of non-profit theatres and companies is even greater. Each theatre employs several accompanists (in some large theatres there are more than a dozen) and even now, in difficult times for musicians, you can find vacancies for an opera accompanist. I cannot fail to note the wide spread of vocal education both at the professional and at the amateur level, where, undoubtedly, the role of a vocal "coach" is in great demand.


The history of teaching instrumental accompaniment is not as old as the tradition of teaching vocal accompanist mastery. I should note that in some high schools of music, since the 1960s, students were required to pass a minimum number of instrumental pieces as part of training vocal accompaniment or even as part of teaching a chamber ensemble. There was no single system of requirements, each university independently making its own curriculum.


The situation began to change fundamentally in the early 2000s. Almost all conservatories began to pay more and more attention to instrumental accompaniment both as an optional subject and as an independent educational programme with the possibility of obtaining a diploma of accompanist for instrumentalists.


In my opinion, the change in the situation is associated with the following factors:


- Gradual transition of higher musical educational institutions to the Bologna educational system. The system of bachelor's and master's degrees began to replace the system of standard diplomas we were used to. To obtain a bachelor's degree (as well as a master's), you need to gain a certain number of points that can be "earned" by completing, in addition to training in the specialty, courses in optional subjects. Many universities began to open various additional programmes, including an instrumental accompaniment course. In most cases, this is a half-year course with a free choice of programme and a presentation at the end of the semester. For this, the student receives 1-2 points. If desired, the student can choose this elective in the next semester and so on throughout the entire period of study. This system has its pros and cons. The undoubted advantage is the absence of routine and "obligation" when a student takes the chosen course. With a variety of optional courses offered by universities, students can tailor their programmes to suit their individual interests or preferences for particular teachers. Interestingly, in one small German Hochschule where a course for piano tuners was introduced, this elective gained immense popularity among students - pianists. Even with basic knowledge of piano tuning, students are able to tune their own instruments and can also earn extra money tuning others. In addition, required course credits were awarded for completing the elective. The disadvantage of such a “pick and mix” education system is undoubtedly the absence of consistent long-term training; if a student only studies accompaniment for a semester or at most two, it is very difficult for them to develop a rigorous and strong foundation of skills and repertoire.


- Understanding by the administrations of universities of the need for student pianists to acquire a practical profession. Over the past decades, a certain imbalance has developed: at the orchestral faculty, 1st year of bachelor's degree students receive intensive classes in orchestral training and upon graduation, already have considerable experience in playing in an orchestra. Having won an audition for an orchestra, they have significantly greater skills than pianists who begin to work as an accompanist. Fortunately, the balance between orchestras and pianists is currently being restored.


- The growing importance of the work of an accompanist in the modern system of music education. I would like to describe in a little more detail the role and status of the accompanist to instrumentalists in the musical universities of German-speaking Europe. Administration is conservative. From the very beginning, Austria and Germany placed the work of an accompanist at a significantly higher level than the leadership of universities in other Western European countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and many other countries). Accompanists in Austria and Germany are mainly assigned to specific orchestral departments, often to specific professors and even students. It is almost impossible to imagine a situation where the same pianist works simultaneously in the classes of viola, opera singing and ballet (which is a standard in the Netherlands, for example). The salary level of full-time accompanists is usually equal to the salaries of university associate professors. Such employment conditions allow accompanists to focus on a certain instrumental repertoire, contributing to much more effective creative work between students, accompanists and teachers. The transition to the system of bachelor's and master's degrees has resulted in a major boost to the status of pianists. In the overwhelming majority of German and Austrian conservatories and universities, classes of students with an accompanist have received the status of a separate, independent subject. For example, at the Vienna University of Music and Arts (where yours truly works), the accompanist at the end of the semester gives the student a grade for working with a pianist. In my university, as well as in most conservatories, the accompanist works at least half of the hours prescribed by the curriculum with a young musician one-on-one, without a teacher. The subject "Solokorrepetition" appeared in the curriculum, loosely translated as "Individual work of a student with an accompanist". Changing the status of an accompanist imposes completely different requirements on the pianist. In addition to excellent knowledge of the repertoire and standard ensemble qualities, he must seriously understand the specifics of orchestral instruments, master pedagogical techniques and, in my opinion, possess the qualities of a psychologist. In terms of the level of responsibility and importance, the accompanist becomes an “instrumental coach”, by analogy with a coach in an opera house.


In my opinion, the above factors have led the artistic leadership of higher music schools and universities to the conclusion that it is necessary to teach instrumental accompaniment as a separate subject.

The leadership of each conservatory, when drawing up curricula, decides on its own how deeply it is necessary for student-pianists to study a new subject (and whether to study at all). In the next section, I would like to briefly describe the study programmes in the universities of the two German-speaking countries.


It seems to me advisable to systematize the review of the Higher Schools of Music on a geographical basis, namely, moving from one federal state to another.



 

Federal Republic of Germany

 

Berlin




Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.



 



This university has implemented one of the most interesting programmes for teaching accompaniment, both an elective and a specialized subject. The creators of this programme took a non-standard path. They divided the accompaniment into two unequal components: "Vocal accompaniment of the chamber genre" (Liedbegleitung) and "Opera and instrumental accompaniment with the basics of conducting" (Opern undInstrumentalkorrepetition mit Dirigieren Kenntnisse). Having chosen the second specialization, the student equally studies both opera scores and instrumental concerts, and also masters the skills of conducting in the opera house. In this way, specialists of a "broad concertmaster profile" are trained: a graduate can work both in the opera house and in the conservatory at the orchestral faculty, as well as conduct orchestral rehearsals in an opera or an opera studio.


I would especially like to note: a student can choose instrumental accompaniment as a specialty already starting with a bachelor's degree! Thus, if a young musician "from an early age" decides to devote themselves to concertmaster work, then they have a brilliant chance to accumulate an extensive repertoire and gain experience in this area of ​​music. This discipline is taught by Professor Alexander Vitlin, a former graduate of the Leningrad Conservatory.



 

Hamburg



Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.



 

Bremen



Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

 

Rostock




In the case of an official specialty of vocal accompaniment, the student is obliged to take a course of accompaniment for instrumentalists for two semesters with the obligatory passing of an exam with a repertoire of orchestral instruments.


 

Saxony


 

Dresden



In this university, the training of professional accompanists holds a special place. The student can choose from four specializations in accompaniment: accompanist of instrumentalists, accompanist of musical theater, accompanist of chamber vocal performance, accompanist of ballet. The young musician undergoes a two-year study and receives a master's degree. It is interesting that having chosen the specialization “instrumental accompaniment” as the “main” study (for example), the student is obliged to devote one semester to a related accompanist direction (for example, ballet accompaniment) and to study the basics of conducting at least one semester. This practice seems to me to be extremely useful; a young musician deciding to embark on the accompanist path, can try themselves in different directions of the art of accompaniment in four semesters of study.


 

Leipzig




Optional training is possible only within the framework of specialist piano training, both at the bachelor's level and at the master's level. A student can engage in any kind of accompaniment (instrumental, opera, chamber vocal, ballet) any number of semesters (naturally, not exceeding the number of semesters of specialty training). Thus, a young pianist can independently create a schedule for learning the accompaniment. For example, out of 8 semesters of undergraduate studies, a young musician can devote 4 semesters to instrumental accompaniment, 2 chamber vocal and one semester to opera and ballet accompaniment. The programme is coordinated with the teacher individually.


 

Thuringia

 

Weimar




Optional training is only possible within the framework of the opera accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Schleswig - Holstein

 

Lübeck




This small university pays special attention to the art of accompaniment. A young pianist can choose to specialize in both vocal and instrumental accompaniment. Concentrating on instrumental accompaniment, the student is obliged, along with the "specialty" programme, to complete at least 2 semesters of vocal accompaniment and 2 semesters of methodology and pedagogy. Very reasonable requirements in my opinion; thus, the young musician develops teaching skills, which is necessary for the work of an accompanist in a modern music university.


 

Lower Saxony

 

Hanover




Optional training is only possible within the vocal accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Saarland


 

Saarbrücken




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). Studying a chamber ensemble at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Rhineland-Palatinate

 

Mainz




Optional training is only possible within the framework of the opera accompaniment course. While studying traditional accompanist skills (vocalists), the student can go through several instrumental pieces. As part of an elective, at least one piece on the harpsichord must be performed.


 

Hesse

 

Frankfurt am Main




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). Studying a chamber ensemble at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Baden - Württemberg

 

Mannheim




In this university, students have a unique opportunity to receive a master's degree in “general accompanist”. Vocal and instrumental accompaniment are "equal in rights". The young musician goes through the opera, chamber vocal and instrumental repertoire in equal proportions. As mandatory electives, there are six-month courses in harpsichord, ballet accompaniment and chamber music.


 

Stuttgart




In Stuttgart, as well as in Mannheim, students have a unique opportunity to obtain a master's degree in “general accompanist”. Vocal and instrumental accompaniment are "equal in rights". The young musician goes through the opera, chamber vocal and instrumental repertoire in equal proportions. Six-month courses in improvisation, Italian and chamber music are provided as mandatory electives.


 

Trossingen



Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). Studying a chamber ensemble at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental pieces.


 

Karlsruhe



Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Bavaria


 

Munich




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Augsburg




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized solo piano course. (at the master's degree). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Nuremberg




Students have the opportunity to specialize in instrumental accompaniment not only at the master's level, but already at the bachelor's level. Thus, if a young musician "from an early age" decides to devote themselves to concertmaster work, then they have a brilliant chance to accumulate an extensive repertoire and gain experience in this area of ​​music. This specialization has been offered since 2015.


 

Würzburg




Instrumental accompaniment in this university has been raised to the rank of a mandatory elective and at bachelor's and master's degree level. We can draw an analogy with the Russian music education system. In addition to instrumental accompaniment, students are required to take a course in vocal accompanist mastery.


 

North Rhine - Westphalia


 

Detmold




Optional training is only possible within the framework of specialized piano training (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Düsseldorf




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Cologne




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course for a chamber ensemble (at the master's degree). While studying at master’s level, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Essen



I would like to tell you more about the training programme at this prestigious educational institution, not least because your humble servant has been teaching here since 2010. I was lucky to be the founder of this programme at the university and, together with its administration, to develop a plan and curriculum. I had the good fortune to receive carte blanche from the dean to implement ideas; a rare creative opportunity in a renowned educational institution with a long history and traditions to create a new programme and express my pedagogical aspirations and ideas in it.


Having worked since 2000 in various higher educational institutions in Europe (conservatories in Russia, Finland, Germany and Austria), I have a contradictory opinion. On the one hand, universities of music, academies and conservatories harmoniously and competently develop young musicians, educate them as artists and personalities and prepare them for teaching careers. If the situation at the orchestral faculty over the past 20 years has changed towards objective reality, the situation for pianists, on the contrary, is very sad. Let's be frank - alone from just the German-speaking higher schools of music, hundreds of pianists graduate every year and, sadly, the overwhelming majority of them will NOT find work in their area of specialty - they will be forced to change their profession. Disappointment in life, in oneself and depression are, alas, all-too-common difficulties faced in the "post-university" life of young musicians.


With the intention of mitigating these difficulties and improving the prospects of graduates finding work and establishing careers in their specialty, I focused on the selection process of young applicants. The administration of the University of Folkwang met me halfway and allowed me to admit only those students who, in my opinion and the opinion of my esteemed colleagues and members of the admissions committee, have good chances of getting work as an accompanist early on, upon graduation.


In recent years, the competition for admission is 8-10 people per place. The professional successes of graduates cannot but rejoice: on average, two out of three my graduate students are already working in their specialty at the leading universities in Austria, Germany, China, Japan, Russia, and Switzerland.


I will briefly outline the curriculum at the University of Folkwang:


1. Individual choice of the curriculum for each specific student. A young musician can concentrate on the accompaniment of strings or wind instruments, can master a balanced repertoire (strings and winds), can focus on the repertoire for children's music schools. In accordance with the chosen programme, a basic repertoire is formed, which must be studied. On average, this is 10-15 concerts, about 10 sonatas, 10-15 concert pieces.


2. In accordance with the chosen instrumental direction, the student is given the opportunity of educational accompanist practice in the classes of the conservatory. In addition to developing the skills of working in an instrumental class, a young pianist has the chance to establish contact with an instrumentalist professor, which often contributes to the further development of their career.


3. A minimum of two semesters of chamber ensemble lessons in large groups (from trios) are required.


4. Highly recommended: 2 semesters of vocal accompaniment lessons.


5. I personally devote a lot of time to the psychological preparation of the work as an accompanist. I focus on the typical problems of instrumentalists, on the peculiarities of preparation for competitions in the orchestra, on the interaction in the student-teacher-accompanist triangle.


6. In connection with the Covid-19 pandemic, I considered it necessary to introduce the programme of training in online accompaniment skills as the ability to record backing tracks of the basic repertoire for instrumentalists, as well as the ability to work with computer programs for synchronizing audio and video files.


My task is to prepare young specialists who love their work and their partners-instrumentalists, who own the main repertoire of the selected group of instruments, who are open-minded, progressive-thinking and psychologically stable, ready for all kinds of surprises in the modern world.


 

Austria


 

Vienna





Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying, a student can go through several instrumental works.




I would like to tell you more about the instrumental accompaniment programme at this university, since for the past 11 years I have had the honour of teaching a chamber ensemble at MUK. The accompaniment class is taught by Professor Denise Benda, a brilliant professional, subtle musician and my respected colleague. This specialization (two-year master's course) has been open to students since 2009, during which time about 50 young pianists have received their master's degrees, many of whom are successfully working in conservatories in Europe and Asia.


The training programme is very intensive. A student who has successfully passed the entrance exams, chooses, together with the professor, the direction of study - accompaniment to wind or string instruments. Choosing, for example, the specialization of accompaniment for string players, a young musician not only goes through the main string repertoire, but also has a unique opportunity to practise in the classes of leading professors, for example, in the classes of Prof. Kuschnir, Prof. Vernikov, Prof. Gutman, who teach at our university. In addition to the "specialty", students are required to complete a course (2 semesters each) of vocal accompaniment, opera accompaniment, the basics of conducting and reading scores. MUK constantly holds workshops on sight-reading, as well as the so-called training sessions for string and brass players for admission to the orchestra, where piano parts are performed by student instrumental accompanists. After four semesters of such intensive training, the young musician is ready to work in the modern realities of the world (and market) of music.


 

Salzburg




Optional training is only possible within the framework of a specialized course in vocal accompaniment (at the master's level). While studying, a student can go through several instrumental works.


 

Graz




At the beginning of 2021, the university administration decided to establish a new curriculum - the Master of instrumental accompaniment. The process of choosing a teacher on a competitive basis is underway. According to preliminary data, 80 candidates have applied for one teaching position. This is a typical picture in the modern European teaching vacancy market.


 

Linz, Eisenstadt, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt



In the higher educational institutions of these cities, teaching instrumental, vocal and operatic accompaniment is poorly developed. Students can only do accompaniment as an elective course, the solo piano programme. Usually, the teachers of this elective are pianist professors who teach the special piano course.



 


The work on this article revealed for me personally a positive trend in the development of instrumental accompaniment mastery in Austria and Germany. There is a clear understanding on the part of the leadership of higher educational institutions of the difficulties in establishing a professional musical future among graduates of higher music schools.

I cannot fail to note the development of an individual approach to the professional development of students on the part of the administration and teachers of higher music schools.


A young musician who wants to follow the path of accompanist has the opportunity to choose from a dozen eminent universities offering a variety of educational programmes that suit the young musician personally.

It is encouraging to support the development of the specialization of instrumental accompaniment both on the part of university administrations and among the teaching staff and students.


I personally warmly welcome new training options for young musicians; thanks to the possibility of in-depth study of the accompaniment, they open up new prospects for both musical development and personal development, opportunities for creative communication, the chances of employment increase dramatically, and, perhaps most importantly, young musicians can more fully realize themselves as performers on the concert stage.



 

Univ. Prof. Evgeny Sinayskiy


English translation: Andrew Skelton

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