The Basics - Solo & Chamber Music
Welcome to the Solo & Chamber Music Basics playlist, part of a new three-part series, exclusively curated for IDAGIO by Joanna Wyld. Designed to provide an engaging introduction that will appeal to beginners and aficionados alike, they will take you on a wide-ranging musical journey across the centuries. With “Solo & Chamber Music” we chart the history of music written for individual instruments and small groups, from music for viols by Thomas Morley to Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint”.Read more…
Many people will have strong views on what they consider to be the ‘essential’ pieces of classical music, and for every piece chosen several others might have easily been used in its place. What we’ve tried to include is a range of famous, popular works which may already be familiar, with less familiar but magnificent examples of each style. The three playlists takes us on a broadly chronological journey through Western music history.
In Early Western music what is now known as chamber music was written for small groups called ‘consorts’; we hear a delightful piece for three viols by Renaissance composer Thomas Morley, before moving into the early French Baroque with elegant music by Marin Marais. Purcell’s viol fantasias are amongst the most exquisite works in the genre, and J.S. Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin is a pinnacle of Western music, the composer creating intricate lines using only one instrument. The string quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven dominated in the Classical era; we hear Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’ Quartet, which was truly ahead of its time, as was the extraordinary ‘Grosse fuge’ by Beethoven.
Schubert’s glorious ‘Trout’ Quintet and Mendelssohn’s Octet follow; there are deliciously Romantic works from Chopin, Borodin and Granados, and a jaunty ragtime piece by Scott Joplin. Ravel’s ambitious ‘Introduction & Allegro’, written early in the 20th century, is a masterpiece of chamber music, expansive and colourful, and Webern took us firmly into a new, modern era with his miniature Movement for String Trio. Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ is a deeply-moving work written in a concentration camp during World War II. We hear the lightest of its movements, the ‘Intermède’. Strings often dominate chamber music but numerous fine works have been written for the wind quintet; we hear an example by Ruth Crawford Seeger, and the contemporary era is represented by the minimalism of American composer Steve Reich in his piece for electric guitar and tape, ‘Electric Counterpoint’.