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Symphonies and Chamber Music

Symphonies and Chamber Music
March 21, 2010, 11:49:11 AM
I have recently been thinking about how, in the classical and romantic eras at least, instrumental music is divided into symphonic music and chamber works.  The former are more popular, not because they are of higher quality, but because they are more accessible.  Despite being larger in scale, the orchestral sound immediately imposes itself upon the listener.  I personally prefer chamber music, whether it be solo piano, string quartet or something else, for a number of reasons.  Firstly I think that the best composers through the classical and romantic periods actually wrote better chamber works than they did symphonies, this is partly due to the fact that in chamber music the composer cannot disguise a lack of musical interest with orchestral effects.  This brings me to my second point, which is that more often that not composers overlook weaknesses that arise like fissure in the large scale form of a symphony, choosing instead to fill these gaps with surface aesthetics.  This is particularly the case in a composer like Schumann, who wrote incredible chambers works and lieder, the violin sonata in A minor and Dichterliebe spring to mind, but whose symphonies were simply not cohesive.

I have recently rediscovered romantic music, which I previously believed to be a worthless era through the chamber works of Schumann and Brahms.  Chamber works are more difficult firstly because it is easy enough to simply get a snapshot of a composer by downloading the complete symphonies, rather than delving into the murkier depths of the always innumerable small scale works of any well known composer.  I recommend that keen listeners take the time to research a composer and get an idea of what they contributed to the string quartet, piano and chamber repertoire rather than simply download the complete symphonies.

Re: Symphonies and Chamber Music
March 22, 2010, 04:53:08 PM
Excellent observation. The symphony has a lot going for it: volume, length, size, scope, prestige. Those are impressive, moreso when all added together, and it's easy not to go beyond the symphony and to miss out on some great music, from the same period and from others.

Re: Symphonies and Chamber Music
March 27, 2010, 06:24:34 AM
I like intimacy in my music. There's little in this world that I can enjoy as much as a single plainchant swirling a melody in the solitude of the space. Small choral groups and chamber music have a similar effect on me.

Of course, I enjoy being struck by the power of symphonies too, but even though they provide subtlety when necessary, I can't avoid finding smaller groups warmer.

Re: Symphonies and Chamber Music
August 11, 2010, 12:44:07 AM
here's some outstanding chamber music!

Franz Schubert - Piano Trio no. 2 op 100 D. 929

This music was pretty easy for me to "comprehend" right off the bat, so I would recommend it even to newcomers to classical.  Music like this just lifts the spirit.

If you're having a bad day, the Schubert Piano Trio no.2 will put a smile on your face guaranteed!  (Yep, I have NO problem saying lame things like that all the time - turn the frown upside down, fags)

enjoy nillas
His Majesty at the Swamp / Black Arts Lead to Everlasting Sins / Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism / Oath of Black Blood / Privilege of Evil / Dawn of Possession / In Battle There is No Law / Thousand Swords / To Mega Therion

Re: Symphonies and Chamber Music
August 11, 2010, 01:23:06 AM
The distinction is often pretty blurred in practice, and, of course, especially blurred prior to the Classical period proper.  A lot of Baroque works written for relatively small ensembles are routinely performed by much larger groups now, and not always to their benefit.  The classic example of this phenomenon is Handel's Messiah, a piece originally written for what we call a chamber orchestra and choir (I believe Handel's ensemble included only 15 or 16 voices at the time the piece was first written and performed), yet in modern performance it is generally treated as the quintessential mass choir/full orchestra choral work, which has the effect of just fucking murdering one of the great works of human art.

Re: Symphonies and Chamber Music
August 14, 2010, 12:07:49 PM
The distinction is often pretty blurred in practice, and, of course, especially blurred prior to the Classical period proper.  A lot of Baroque works written for relatively small ensembles are routinely performed by much larger groups now, and not always to their benefit.  The classic example of this phenomenon is Handel's Messiah, a piece originally written for what we call a chamber orchestra and choir (I believe Handel's ensemble included only 15 or 16 voices at the time the piece was first written and performed), yet in modern performance it is generally treated as the quintessential mass choir/full orchestra choral work, which has the effect of just fucking murdering one of the great works of human art.

I was mostly thinking about composers like Schubert, Schumann etc.  Where you're basically going to miss out on their best music if all you listen to is their symphonies.