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Chamber Music

An Essential History

Mark A. Radice

Publication Year: 2012

Intended for the music student, the professional musician, and the music lover, Chamber Music: An Essential History covers repertoire from the Renaissance to the present, crossing genres to include string quartets, piano trios, clarinet quintets, and other groupings. Mark A. Radice gives a thorough overview and history of this long-established and beloved genre, typically performed by groups of a size to fit into spaces such as homes or churches and tending originally toward the string and wind instruments rather than percussion. Radice begins with chamber music's earliest expressions in the seventeenth century, discusses its most common elements in terms of instruments and compositional style, and then investigates how those elements play out across several centuries of composers- among them Mozart, Bach, Haydn, and Brahms- and national interpretations of chamber music. While Chamber Music: An Essential History is intended largely as a textbook, it will also find an audience as a companion volume for musicologists and fans of classical music, who may be interested in the background to a familiar and important genre.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-4

The term chamber music was introduced in the seventeenth century by the theorist Marco Scacchi. For him, chamber music was one of three contexts in which music was ordinarily found; these were musica ecclesiastica (church music), musica theatralis (theater music), and musica cubicularis (chamber music). These categories had nothing to do with the number of players, the ...

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1. The Nature of Early Chamber Music

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pp. 5-23

Music for domestic performance—chamber music—is the focus of this book. Aristocratic homes of medieval Europe often had rather expansive music rooms, but these spaces were generally smaller than a church or theater. Less volume was required to ‹ll them with sounds, and ensembles tended to be smaller. ...

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2. The Crystallization of Genres during the Golden Age of Chamber Music

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pp. 24-54

Important changes took place in the art of music around the end of the first quarter of the eighteenth century. One of the most significant was the introduction of well-tempered tuning for keyboard instruments. With the advent of well-tempered tuning, all twenty-four major and minor keys became available to composers. The fist volume ...

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3. Classical Chamber Music with Wind Instruments

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pp. 55-61

Many scores by Haydn, Mozart, and their contemporaries throughout Europe have come down to us bearing the designation divertimento. Other pieces are called notturno, serenata, cassation, or Nachtmusik. Whereas divertimento denoted performance by one player per part, these other designations did not necessarily indicate nonorchestral scorings.1 The serenade ...

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4. The Chamber Music of Beethoven

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pp. 62-82

The most important chamber works by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770– 1827) are his string quartets. His earliest, begun in 1798, eventually became the set of six string Quartets, Op. 18. His middle period quartets are the three Razumovsky Quartets, Op. 59, the Harp Quartet, Op. 74, and the Quartetto serioso, Op. 95. The late quartets include Opp. 127, 132, 130, 131, ...

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5. The Emergence of the Wind Quintet

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pp. 83-89

The combination of pairs of oboes, horns, and bassoons to form a wind sextet was common enough during the Classical era. When the clarinet arrived upon the scene, the sextet was expanded to the traditional eight-instrument assembly associated with Harmoniemusik. Pairs of flutes, basset horns, and other wind instruments were often added to the ensemble, ...

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6. Schubert and Musical Aesthetics of the Early Romantic Era

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pp. 90-101

Beethoven died in 1827, only a single year before Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828). Both spent their most productive years in Vienna; however, their respective styles are light years apart. Schubert’s radical departure from the Classical style cannot be attributed to any unfamiliarity with the standard repertoire of the period. We ...

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7. Prince Louis Ferdinand and Louis Spohr

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pp. 102-113

Frederick the Great’s nephew, Friedrich Christian Ludwig (1772–1806), Prince of Prussia—known as Louis Ferdinand—shared his uncle’s enthusiasm for music. Gifted with enormous talents, Louis was active both as a performer and as a composer. He always remained an amateur musician, but he certainly had the capability to have become a professional. ...

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8. Champions of Tradition: Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms

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pp. 114-170

The lifestyles of professional musicians changed radically in the early days of the historical style period that we generally call the Romantic era. Until about the middle of the eighteenth century, the typical musician might have expected to find employment in the home of a wealthy aristocrat, or in some ecclesiastical organization. The events of the later eighteenth ...

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9. Nationalism in French Chamber Music of the Late Romantic Era: Franck, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Ravel

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pp. 171-188

During the first half of the nineteenth century, the musical scene in Paris was dominated by three main operatic organizations: the Académie Royale de Musique, the Théâtre des Italiens, and the Opéra-Comique. Instrumental music had a limited appeal to the general public. Amateur players still performed chamber works in domestic settings. Professional concerts ...

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10. National Schools from the Time of Smetana to the Mid-Twentieth Century

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pp. 189-208

Throughout the nineteenth century, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria dominated the European musical scene. Politically, too, the last three of these countries exerted tremendous if not inordinate influence. The assertion of artistic autonomy thus became a venue for both patriotism and protest among artists working in marginalized countries, particularly those ...

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11. Nationalism and Tradition: Schoenberg and the Austro-German Avant-Garde

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pp. 209-223

Histories of music rarely speak of Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) as a nationalist or as a traditionalist; however, he was definitive in asserting both his status as a German composer and as a continuation of the German musical heritage. Josef Rufer, who studied composition with Schoenberg and was his assistant at the Prussian Academy of Arts from 1925 until 1933, ...

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12. The Continuation of Tonality in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 224-244

Many composers at the close of the nineteenth century were attempting to find new ways to use sonorities inherited from the tonal tradition. Some devised ingenious new applications of sounds that, though familiar, are contextualized in ways that depart from functional harmonic paradigms. These composers might be considered conservative, at least superficially; ...

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13. Strictly Confidential: The Chamber Music of Dmitri Shostakovich

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pp. 245-262

The principal chamber works of Shostakovich consist of two piano trios (Op. 8, 1923; Op. 67, 1944), sonatas for cello and piano, violin and piano, and viola and piano (Op. 40, 1934; Op. 134, 1968; Op. 147, 1975), the Piano Quintet in G minor (Op. 57, 1940), and fifteen string quartets written between 1938 and 1974. String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 49 is an easygoing ...

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14. Two Fugitives from the Soviet Bloc: György Ligeti and Karel Husa

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pp. 263-273

The Ligeti family settled in Transylvania at the end of the nineteenth century and became residents of Hungary. (Since then, the town of his birth has become part of Romania.) Following the trends among Hungarian nationalists at the time, they changed their German family name, Auer, to an approximation of it in Hungarian: Ligeti.1 From 1941 until 1943, György ...

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15. Benchmarks: Chamber Music Masterpieces since circa 1920

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pp. 274-296

The expense and logistical challenges involved with rehearsing large ensembles as well as the diversity and novelty of many musical styles cultivated since 1900 have been powerful stimuli for the composition of chamber music. Because tone color has assumed greater importance in music since the time of Debussy, many of these chamber works have unique or ...

Table of Chamber Pieces According to Ensemble Size

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pp. 297-314


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pp. 315-344


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pp. 345-375

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028115
E-ISBN-10: 0472028111
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051656
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071653

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 2 tables, 20 musical examples
Publication Year: 2012