Warren Jones — Indispensable Partner
November 1, 1999
The San Francisco Examiner has called pianist Warren Jones "the single finest accompanist now
Jones, who has played with such great artists as Marilyn Horne, Kathleen Battle, Denyce Grayes and Olaf Baer,
will be touring several American cities with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in the next few weeks. In an interview given to
La Scena in June, he talked about his views on accompanying and the tremendous joys it brings him.
The 47-year-old dynamo stepped onstage when he was five and has never looked back. Jones considers making
music with someone else to be one of life's "wonderful experiences". It's a way of knowing people in a
non-verbal manner, of feeling "shared energy". To develop a successful working relationship, soloist and pianist
must respect each other's abilities. The accompanist is an equal partner, said Jones, and he was happy to report
that attitudes on this subject are changing. He recalled an incident in 1997 when he was a juror at the Van Cliburn
competition. A woman came up to him and asked, "Should I call you an accompanist or a collaborator?" His reply
was a true cry from the heart: "Just call me a pianist!"
Jones felt that good technique is merely a starting point for making music. The first thing he looks for in a student
is the ability to get along with other musicians. He compared the bond between soloist and pianist to a love
relationship: "First you must know yourself then you know the other."
Singers, instrumentalists, and pianists possess assets that truly differentiate them, in his view. The pianist has to
accept the fact that once he has produced a tone, he can't change it. String players, by contrast, can use bow and
vibrato to coax sound from their instrument and consciously modify the result. Singers are in a class by
themselves. Their instrument is located inside a constantly changing body and they have only a very slight idea of
how they sound. "They must rely on the kindness of other people to direct them," said Jones - that person being
the teacher or accompanist.
For Warren Jones, learning is a lifelong process. He feels it is important for a musician to play every kind of
music, but he added that he only performs what he likes. "If I don't, the public won't want to listen to it!" he
concluded, laughing heartily.
[Translation: Jane Brierley]