Just had my duet exam today playing Debussy's En Bateau (In a boat) from the Petite Suite and Ravel's Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes (Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas) from the Mother Goose Suite.
Yikes, combined exam with the regular piano course class. More people = more nervous. Plus a really stern looking kato sensei was there to listen and pick potential ones to play in some duo concert(?). Stress level just goes up. But luckily, feedback from friends was that we sounded most like duet. Hopefully! Donno bluff or not. After sitting through the whole thing, my opinion was that a lot of them would be better off being soloists hahaha. And I was in awe that even though we ALL have the same teacher, every pair that played the same pieces has its own images and interpretations (whether you are successful in the realisation of the intended sounds is another matter), and that makes a big difference in deciding if you enjoyed it or not.
The best duets are those that sound like they're being played by just one person. ie you can't tell that they're being played by two people from listening alone. It's not easy, because first, you need a lot of mo qi with your partner. Most well known duet players are bro-sis, husband-wife or life partners like David Nettle and Richard Markham. Yes they are together as in together-together and they are very good duet (1 piano 4 hands) /duo (two pianos) performers. Seasoned duet players communicate with a nod, a smile, a breath and are so used to one another that it seems like they can read each other's mind on when to start, slow down, hasten, stop, etc. Walking your fingers at the same pace, very important.
Second, the ideal is to have the same touch as your partner and maintain a good balance (of eg sounds and volume) between the primo (usually the melody, right side) and secondo (usually the accompaniment, left side). It sounds easier than it can be done, because everyone has different touch, pressure, voicing, phrasing, pedalling habits, timing, hand/body movement, interpretations, etc. Combined together, it's almost impossible to replicate fully. If either one plays in his or her own style and completely ignores the other, like what I heard in some other pairs... it sounds off. Like very unnatural, like there's two moods having separate monologues. So it's very important to listen to your partner and adjust accordingly as you play. OKAY, Just saying that I am missing my PIC in sg. That's Partners In Crime, on the pianos.
Anyway, here are the two pieces, if anyone's interested to know how they sound like.
Played by two masters! Especially Martha Argerich.