Twentieth-Century Chamber Music

Twentieth-Century Chamber Music

Twentieth-Century Chamber Music

Twentieth-Century Chamber Music

Excerpt

Even at the end of the turbulent twentieth century, the usual definition of chamber music seems constant and secure: music performed by a small group of players, normally numbering between two and nine, one on a part, usually without a conductor (to encourage individuality as an essential part of its collectiveness), and emphasizing subtlety and intimacy over a grandeur better realized in the symphony hall or opera house. It is impossible to posit as a requisite of chamber music either "transcendence" (over the supposed obviousness of orchestral music or opera) or "lyricism" (reflecting a love of expressive individuality). Trying to make such distinctions among Mozart's C-Major Quintet, his "Jupiter" Symphony, and virtually any of his operas, between Beethoven's Op. 131 String Quartet and his Ninth Symphony, or between Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms will leave the writer facing mind-numbing generalizations or niceties of distinction. With all that is new in the chamber music of this century, the traditional criteria still hold.

What I have attempted in this book is a synoptic study of the principal genres, techniques, and ideas (both traditional and new) of the chamber music of the twentieth century that falls into the European-American tradition usually called "Classical." I have arranged the study by topic, not by chronology, since it is these "topics"-genres, formats, general concerns, implied aesthetics-that make twentieth-century chamber music most distinctive from earlier works. Simple chronology, which is less important in the musical developments and trends of our century, would provide only an artificial and constraining structure for the works I want to discuss. A topical organization, on the other hand, allows a discussion of not just the notes but what lies behind them as well.

Thus the first chapter, an introduction to the chamber music of this century, takes up four quite different compositions: Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) of 1899, the First and Fourth Sonatas for Violin and Piano by Charles Ives (1902-8 and 1906-16), respectively, and Pierre Boulez's Le marteau sans maître of 1957. These four works introduce some of the overriding themes of this study: the use of literary

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.