Friday, June 3, 2011

An Internet Chamber Music Recital

(UPDATE 2011-07-11: Version française de ce billet http://itywltmt.blogspot.com/2011/07/un-recital-de-chambre-sur-internet.html)


Chamber music comes in many forms, from a solo instrument, to duos, trios, quartets and larger groups of musicians. This week, I thought I would provide some samples of chamber music I have found on the Web.

Three duos

The typical setting here is a sonata for solo instrument and keyboard. My choice today is a late work by Johannes Brahms. In the early 1880's Brahms decided he would never compose music again.  But when he heard clarinetist Richard Meulfeld, he couldn't resist taking up his pen for a few more pieces, written especially for this consummate artist. These have included a clarinet quintet, and two sonatas for clarinet and piano. The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in F minor, Op. 120 No. 1 was also later orchestrated by Luciano Berio for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and their solo clarinet, Michelle Zukovsky. Canadian clarinetist James Campbell recorded the Berio orchestration with the London Symphony a few years back, and recorded the sonata in its original form with fellow Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin in Boston at WGBH's Fraser Performance Studio on October 20th, 2010. The recital also includes two bonus worls for clarunet and piano by Poulenc and Berg.



A Trio

This is not an uncommon story: a man with a day job who also happens to be a top notch composer in his spare time. Borodin, for example, was a scholarly chemist who dabbled in composition. Charles Ives sold insurance by day, and wrote some groundbreaking music in his spare time. One such work is his piano trio written in 1904. Here, I propose a pretty good amateur performance by MIT students Catherine McCurry, violin;  Sunny Wicks, cello and Vincent C. K. Cheung, piano, recorded in performance in 2007 at Killian Hall of MIT. 

http://web.mit.edu/ckcheung/www/PerformanceRecordings.htm
(Please scroll down the page to find the Ives trio)

A Quartet

Ravel’s quartet in F is certainly my favorite French quartet, and possibly makes my Top 3, period. Despite the notoriety he ultimately achieved, Ravel was shunned for one of France’s most coveted music scholarships, the Prix de Rome. He made several submissions, including two fine yet rarely performed cantatas. This quartet, dedicated to his friend and teacher Gabriel Fauré, was Ravel's final submission to the Prix de Rome – unsuccessful at the prize, and lukewarmly received by the critics. Fauré wasn’t kind, either. However, in 1905, Claude Debussy wrote to Ravel: “In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note you have written in your Quartet.” Ravel's String Quartet in F major stands as one of the most widely performed chamber music works in the classical repertoire, representing Ravel's early achievements and rise from obscurity.

The quartet is a modern-sounding work, but it is lyrical and – at times – dreamy. I have a few versions in my collection, and I had a link to a YouTube video that has since been removed. The performance I chose is an undated recording from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Tapestry Room featuring Musicians from Marlboro, the touring extension of the renowned Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. 

http://traffic.libsyn.com/gardnermuseum/ravel_fmajquartet.mp3

Something bigger

Chamber music, in my mind, sort of loses it’s “chamber” moniker when the number of artists goes past a dozen. Eight is a good number – maybe that’s why Mendelssohn’s Octet entered my mind as an example of a larger chamber work.

Felix Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major was composed in the autumn of 1825, when the composer was aged 16. This work is considered his first great masterpiece. Scored for a double quartet, Mendelssohn specified that the octet should be played with the dynamics, strength and style of a symphony. Mendelssohn considered the octet to be one of his favorite works. The performance I chose is an undated recording from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Tapestry Room again featuring Musicians from Marlboro. 


Enjoy these, as I think you will love this music too.

[ITYWLTMT wishes to remind that embedded links and their content are provided here for musical enjoyment, and can be experienced on your PC without downloading required if you have access to the Internet. (Downloading files for use on your personal digital companion is generally possible, depending on the site.) Because we are not managing third-party web content, ITYWLTMT does not guarantee the currency of the link – all we can guarantee is that the link worked “as advertised” at the time of the original blog post. Please enjoy!]