A composer rarely mentioned within this forum (if at all) is Grieg and his excellent quartet in G min is a very powerful work.
Listen to the opening of the first movement (I have Kontra Quartet on BIS) and you'd think it was a chamber orchestra playing (he exagerrates but you'll see).
I can't recommend this work enough.
Pause for thought.
You are absolutely right, Atonal. Grieg's chamber music is quite interesting and, in many parts, impressive. Apart from the powerful and emotional String Quartet in the "tragic key" of g minor, the two Violin Sonatas and the Cello Sonata are very notable and quite worth listening to.
However, the real masterpieces of the Nordic composers in Chamber Music can be found in the Chamber works of Nielsen: His String Quartets are stunning, solid and emotionally quite strong. The Violin Sonatas are amazingly expressive and technically very demanding. The Wind Quintet is a delightful work, full of creative ideas and brilliant writing for the instruments involved.
Try Nielsen! He is a revelation in Chamber Music.
Parla, this is an excellent thread which has been kept alive for quite some time.
My first interest in chamber music was always the German Lied; they are a treasure trove for anyone to explore. Due to the fact that we are dealing with the variety of expressions which the human voice is capable of producing the same songs may be expressed in hugely diversifying ways, for the curious listener to enjoy. Again, and unfortunately, these masterpieces so short that anybody should be able to sit through concentrated listening, don't enjoy nearly as much attention as they merit. Of course, have the Lieder of Schubert, Hugo Wolf and Schumann in mind (in wonderful recordings by Schwarzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau, Seefried, Hotter) but if the German is the obstacle there are wonderful artsongs by by Butterworth and Vaughan Williams in the repertoire as well as Sibelius, Kilpinen etc.
On a separate note, it is remarquable that chamber music hasn't been taken over by the musical correctness mafia which otherwise dominate serious music these days. Nobody seems to discard the Takacs for not playing Haydn on gutstrings or lambast the Hagen for publicly displaying their ignorance by applying a bit of vibrato when playing Mozart. Chamber Music seems to continue to be played based on the merits of the music.
Thanks a lot for your kind words, HMV. I'm proud of this thread and the interest that keeps it alive.
The Lied, technically, belongs to vocal music, but, in terms of the musical "forces" needed, it can be considered as a sort of Chamber Music. There are also interesting combinations or transcriptions for voice and chamber ensembles (Schubert, Mahler, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, V. Williams, etc.).
I don't know much (or, at least, I don't recognise) about any "musical correctness mafia", but, for your information, the Takacs have already embarked on Haydn (see the newest releases of Hyperion), probably not as well as the Prazak or Parkanyi or Lindsay Quartets. The Hagen are superb musicians and, perhaps, the most important of the "old" generation String Quartets; so, any ignorance of vibrato on Mozart is irrelevant.
On the other hand, there are quite a few chamber ensembles (or soloists), performing with original istruments and in the period style. There are two excellent sets of the Piano Trios of Haydn (on Brilliant and more recently on CPO) with Fortepiano and period strings. There is a brilliant performance of the Piano Quartets of Mozart with Badura-Skoda and the period String Quartet Festetics on Arcana. Brilliant has also issued the whole set of String Quartets of Haydn with a period intruments ensemble (very competitive and worthy). Most importantly, the most brilliant and exciting set of Mozart's Violin Sonatas on historic Violin and Fortepiano with Podger and Cooper on Channel. However, all of them are successful only on the merits of their music...making.
Then I shall. Thanks again.
Parla. Thanks for some excellent recommendations on the Mozart String Quartets (I eventually went for the Hagen with an additional Prazak - where is vol 2 of their Haydn Quartets, I wonder?) Also, the wonderful Mozart Piano Quartets with the Nash ensemble are now in my CD player.
And yes, I know that that my rampage against the historically informed music making has become tiresome for some. Just think it strange that Bach chamber and solo works on Steinway and other modern instruments are acceptable to critics while Bach orchestral is immediately dismissed as old fashioned if not played 'historically correct'. This trend, I am afraid, is spreading to the Viennese classics. I don't understand it. But I kept my mind open and downloaded Brautigam's take on the last Mozart Piano concertos. Not a patch, I'm afraid, on Curzon, Casadesus, Brendel or Haskil. Because of the lack of expressivity, and the bland musical discours. On top of that, one has to content with the 'starved' sound picture of of the playing, strings like out of breath.
I hope, HMV, you won't miss the out of this world String Quintets of the divine Amadeus (the very best is the Fine Arts Quartet on Lyrinx or the single disc of Prazak with the two most important ones in g minor and in D) as well as the usually neglected masterful Piano Trios (try the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt on Capriccio or the Guarneri on Praga). In the end, you have to explore the Violin Sonatas, true gems of marvellous, delightful and sublime music. For quite a few professionals, reviewers and violinists, the version of Podger (historic violin) and Cooper (Pianoforte) is the very best for the works. For the modern instruments, probably the Mutter/Orkis might work for you, but it's a bit uneven.
Bach solo and, rarely his Chamber works on Steinway are acceptable to critics or listeners as an alternative to the original. The original is always the "poor" harpsichord which, however, in the hands of a true master can become a superb instrument. Gustav Leonhardt, who unfortunately just passed away, was such a great harpsichordist (as well as organist) of immense musicianship and profound knowledge of the whole baroque era. His recordings (along with some other great exponents of the kind) demonstrate why the "historical or period instruments" movement overcame the traditional symphonic orchestras from this repertory.
Finally, listen to Brautigam or any other period performance recording as something new and do not compare it with traditional pianists or well known orchestras. The approach is different, the playing is faster due to the limitations of the instruments and the pitch is higher, just to mention few basic differences. So, you have to approach the "period" performances on their own merits.
the divine Amadeus
Parla, you've fallen in my estimation. I thought you really appreciated Mozart. But "the divine Amadeus"? You sound like a coffee table book about the great composers. Mozart used the name Amadeus only in painful jest - Wolfgangus Amadeus Mozartus (he was christened Gottlieb but often signed himself Amadé). Amadeus made a fetching title for a play and then film, neatly reinforcing their "message". Referring to Mozart as "divine" only serves to comfort Peter Shaffer's totally spurious argument.
If I am going to fall in "your estimation" because of the use of the word Amadeus, let it happen. It's the least of my worries. As for my appreciation of Mozart, it lies purely on his divine (yes it is absolutely divine) music, which is unique and full of sublime inspiration, in every respect.
As for Gottlieb or Theophilus (in other sources), it means (exactly) in Latin Amadeus (the one who was loved by God) and, to many people, it sounds more beautiful and even meaningful than the German or the ancient Greek words. To me (and not only), he looked like he was loved by God(s), since his music had this magic touch of incredible for human ease of writing a huge number of superb and sublime music, even for the bass line in a Piano Sonata. Just, as an example at random, try the slow movement of the Piano Concerto No.23 in A major, K. 488 and you stand in awe in front of this divine simplicity and utmost beauty.
So, the game of the name is not for Meister Mozart. He could deserve many more names than Amadeus and his music more attributes than divine.
Having been away for a few days, I find a lot of discussion of the Beethoven violin concerto and of Mahler symphonies and buried amongst the former Parla's heartfelt plea for discussion of chamber music:
"Finally, with all due respect to the Violin Concert of Beethoven, I haven't seen - so far - anyone intersted in any great (or not) work of Chamber Music, (Beethoven's String Quartets, Violin and Cello Sonatas as well as his Piano Trios are subjects for endless discussions)."
Well, I must say I spend much more time listening to chamber music, and not just Beethoven's, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to find Beethoven's string quartets (especially the late ones) amongst the greatest music ever written, and hardly inferior the duo sonatas and piano trios. Why then is there so little discussion about these glorious works, and indeed about chamber music in general?
Perhaps an answer can be found in those recent threads on the Beethoven violin concerto and the Mahler symphonies. These threads actually contain very little about the music, but are mostly concerned with assessments of different recordings. (Arguably writing about music itself is much more difficult than writing about prefences for recordings).
But with major orchestral works such as these strong views abound as to how they should be performed, about the egos of some conductors on the one hand or the 'golden mediocrity (lovely phrase) of others on the other. The discussion of the balance between the (subjective) individuality of the performer and the (objective) fidelity to the score is, and probably always will be, endless.
When it comes to chamber music though, and especially to its most 'perfect' form, the string quartet, I don't feel such strong arguments around: by and large all the greatest quartets (and chamber ensembles) are built on that same listening, sharing base, the feeling of musicians working together in harmony.
There are notable exceptions, where a great instrumentalist can impose his authority on an ensemble (Heifetz was one, not to everyone's approval), or raise the game of his/her companions (say Sabine Meyer in Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Benjamin Britten in Mozart's g minor piano quartet), but overall I don't notice the same intensity of argument of the merits of, say, the Vegh and the Italians in the Beethoven quartets as is regularly to be found with the big orchestral works. Hence perhaps a less dynamic level of discussion.
I don't know whether anyone agrees with this suggestion. Be that as it may, it put in mind a great but neglected work that lies awkwardly between chamber music and orchestral: namely the Triple Concerto (for piano trio and orchestra) of Beethoven. So difficult to bring off, it needs the both familiarity of a piano trio amongst its soloists as well as authority from its conductor. How many really successful recordings are there?
Thanks a lot, Chris, for reviving, even for awhile, this thread, which I presume could be of great interest in a Classical Forum.
Your assumption on the "orchestral" threads is correct, to a great extent. People like simply to confine themselves to exchanging views on various performances' features rather than discussing the essence of the various aspects of the works in question.
Your "suggestion" about Chamber Music is also, by and large, correct. Despite the great differences in approaching Beethoven's String Quartets, both Vegh and Quartetto Italiano are widely accepted as top recordings for reference. There is no room for endless debate on why Vegh should be better or vice versa. Along the way, numerous other great recordings, including the recent (and only one in SACD) with Prazak is also widely accepted as a modern reference.
The good -and very interesting- thing about Chamber Music is that it can make you focus on the work itself rather than on the performers. For me (and not only), this is the greatest achievement for a composition and the ultimate benefit for the listener.
The example of the Triple Concerto is a pertinent one (such a great work combining Chamber and Orchestral elements so successfully). There is also a very neglected but rewarding concertante work by Spohr for String Quartet and Orchestra (!). There is only one recording (as far as I know) with the Gewandhaus Quartet from a live performance, on NCA (in SACD format).
Are lovers of chamber music more reticent when it comes to posting about chamber music? I’m sure there really are plenty of forum members who listen to chamber music. But what do they listen to?
Here are ten works I’d take to the proverbial ‘desert island’, including some particularly favourite, or particularly interesting recordings. I’ve only allowed myself one work by each composer:
Beethoven: Quartet Op.131 (Vegh Quartet, unmatched for deeply spiritual musicality).
Mozart: Quintet in G minor (K516) (Heifetz, Primrose, Piatagorsky et al.: aston ishing how there seem to be five Heifetzes playing in complete accord. I’m sure at least as many will hate this performance as adore it).
Schubert: Quintet in C (Two favourites, my old one with Casals, Tortelier, Stern et al, wonderfully characterful music making together, not well recorded, and my newest (thanks to Parla!) with the superb Prazak Quartet, altogether darker and using the new Barenreiter edition with some very noticeable differences. Fine recording).
Janacek String Quartet No.2 ‘Intimate Letters’ (Janacek Quartet on Supraphon. Never equalled in my book, and still sounds excellent).
Haydn Quartet. Difficult choice. Cheating, but either Op.77, No.2, one of his greatest ‘mature’ works, or Op 54, No.2, one of his most daring, with its extraordinary slow last movement looking forward to Beethoven (The former with the Alban Berg Quartet at their finest the latter with the Parkanyi (guess who’s suggestion?)).
Bartok Quartet No.5 (again with the Vegh Quartet, completely at one with this music).
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet. A beautiful autumnal work (with the glorious clarinet of Sabine Meyer and the Alban Berg Quartet (live) and with the Quintet Op.111 as a splendid coupling).
Schoenberg: Verklaerte Nacht. I much prefer the string sextet version to the full orchestra. I’ve never found a recording quite the equal of a performance I heard in the Wigmore Hall with the New Vienna Sextet.
Bach: The Art of Fugue. Chamber music? Well it sounds wonderful in the Keller Quartet's superb recording on ECM, and it's one of my desert island works in any form. So why not?
Anyone else interested in chamber music?
Every piece on your list I love.On "that" desert island should be happy,but there is one work that would make my happiness complete - Mozart,Divertimento for string trio,K.563.
I have many versions of,that is for me Mozart's greatest work.My favorite,I think, is an old Westminster recording with Jean Pougnet violin,Frederick Riddle viola,and Anthony Pini cello.
For me the greatest chamber works are hard to pinpoint - there are too many!
However, "Desert Island" material would be (all by Schubert):
- Trio No. 2 D. 929 - especially the version by Trio di Trieste
- Quartet No. 13 D. 804
- Quartet No.15 D. 887 - take the performance by Vegh Quartet
Ganymede, I didn't know there was a recording of the Schubert G major quartet by the Vegh. Thanks for that!
It would be very easy to make a desert island selection of just Schubert or just Mozart (certainly including K.563 and the first piano quartet). And depending on the definition of chamber music, I could easily take just Bach. After a while though one might perhaps want some variety.