Archive | Chamber Music

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Discarded (and Salvaged) Ives

Charles Ives’ Largo for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano is the result of an interesting compositional evolution. It began life as the second movement of a violin sonata Ives wrote as a student, but it was later discarded and replaced with a different slow movement based on The Old Oaken Bucket. In 1902, this music was salvaged and transformed, […]

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The Orion Quartet in Concert: Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 9

“We now join our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.” That’s the message that could accompany the opening of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 9 in C Major. An F-sharp diminished chord emerges out of thin air at the beginning of this piece. This is the  last chord we would expect to hear at this point. It sounds like […]

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New Release: Haydn’s “Sun” Quartets, Performed by the Chiaroscuro

Is it possible to hear seeds of Romanticism in the string quartets of Franz Joseph Haydn? Recently, as I was listening to the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s newest album, this thought crossed my mind. The recording features Haydn’s Op. 20 “Sun” Quartets Nos. 4-6. (Last year, the ensemble released the first three quartets of the Op. 20 set). […]

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New Release: The Kronos Quartet’s “Folk Songs”

For more than 40 years, the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet has traversed wide and adventurous creative territory- everything from the minimalism of Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich, to film scores (including Requiem for a Dream), and the music of Astor Piazzolla and Jimi Hendrix. The group has commissioned 750 new works. Their over […]

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Mozart String Quintet in C Major: The Emerson Quartet and Kim Kashkashian

The addition of one guest to an intimate gathering or party can change the dynamic, completely. Especially when the guest is a warmly welcomed newcomer. This is what we hear in Mozart’s String Quintet No. 3 in C Major, K. 515. It’s a piece written for string quartet with an added viola. That second viola changes the […]

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The Hollywood String Quartet: Five Classic Recordings

The Hollywood String Quartet, formed in 1939 and active until 1961, is regarded as the first American-born chamber music group to rise to international prominence. Their fame was due, in large part, to their numerous and exceptional recordings. The members were all studio musicians who created the lush, glowing soundtracks of Hollywood’s “golden age.” First […]

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New Release: The Emerson’s “Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell”

The Emerson String Quartet’s newest album spans three hundred years of English music. Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell balances twentieth century composer Benjamin Britten’s Second and Third String Quartets with Chaconnes and Fantasias by baroque composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695). This year marks the Emerson Quartet’s 40th anniversary. This latest recording is the first to […]

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Trio Rafale Plays Ravel

Some pieces grab you by the throat and demand that you listen, thrusting you into an exhilarating, pulse-quickening ride from the first note. Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor isn’t one of those pieces, at least in its opening bars. Instead, it’s music which seduces, wafting over you with a dreamy palette of impressionist color. It’s both […]

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Photo: Marco Borggreve

Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata: Isabelle Faust

A continuous vibrato is one of the key elements of modern violin playing. So it’s easy to forget that there was a time when vibrato was used much more sparingly as an ornament. Listen to German violinist Joseph Joachim’s 1903 recordings of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 and No 2 and you’ll hear this older approach to sound. In a […]

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Brahms Sextets: The Cypress Quartet’s Swan Song

The San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet disbanded last summer after twenty years. Their final recording, featuring Johannes Brahms’ two String Sextets, was released in January. The Cypress was joined by cellist Zuill Bailey and violist Barry Shiffman for the album, recorded in front of a live audience at the Skywalker Sound Studio. Recently, the Cypress Quartet’s […]

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