“The assumption that attendants can get away with being less competent is wrong” – Joseph Middleton


The following is an exception form from BBC Music Magazine April 2022 issue interview with pianist and song accompaniment specialist Joseph Middleton, director of the Leeds Lieder festival.

Music – and especially song – remains at the heart of Middleton’s whirlwind life: “The thing I’ve always enjoyed the most has been working with other people. After graduating, I started reading for an MPhil, but gave up on the idea of ​​a PhD when I realized I couldn’t marry academic work with play. So I applied to music college on a whim and went to the Royal Academy of Music as an accompanist.

At RAM, Middleton was regularly – even stealthily – encouraged by his teacher, pianist Malcolm Martineau, to add work with singers to his more usual chamber music. In turn, when it comes to advice to impart, he emphasizes that any budding collaborative pianist needs to build a rock-solid technique. “The assumption that accompanists can get away with being less proficient is a somewhat old-fashioned view peddled by people who have never watched a song and realized how it was composed.”

Effective collaboration involves practically memorizing one’s own part while experiencing the unfolding of the text both with and through the singer. And recording again requires different skills, as Middleton knows from his extensive discography. “In a recording studio, I try to make it feel like it’s live, even though you record most 70-minute song records over three or four days. You don’t do it repeatedly because you didn’t bother to learn it! It’s more like building a puzzle, where you think, “If I do this like this, will it match the next one?”

Fascinated by expert recording crews, he speaks with admiration of these often invisible professionals who can cobble together the minutiae of microphone placement until the right acoustic world is forged. But that has nothing to do with the tightrope walker of live performance, in which, despite hours of rehearsal, there is room for spontaneity, especially when the singer shares his love of risk.

Leeds lieder 2022 runs from April 28 to May 1 at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds.

Joseph Middleton will perform in recital with soprano Louise Alder at Wigmore Hall on March 21, 2022, and again at Conducts the closing recital of the Lieder Festival May, the 1st.

Photo: Gerard Collett


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