Chamber Music Off the Beaten Path

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

"Chamber music" originally referred to a group of musicians that could all fit into a palace chamber. When you hear the term, what does it make you think of? Maybe you think of a handful of string players huddling over music stands, or a vocal and piano duo. Why couldn't a sitar, electric guitar, or accordion join the party?

To celebrate WQXR's chamber music festival, Trout Week, All Ears leaves no stone unturned, finding unusual instrumentation that could fit right in all kinds of tight spots.

Enjoy Guy Klucevsek's accordion- and string-drenched Tesknota, which sounds like it easily could have been held in a Chinatown opium den; Ravi Shankar's violin, piano and sitar raga; and Judd Greenstein's Folk Music, which pins electric guitar against flute and more. We also get into some instruments normally associated with "chamber" music that challenge the status quo, like Don Byron and Uri Caine stretching out on clarinet and piano.

Plus, the music of Duke Ellington, Harry Partch, Kenji Bunch and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Do you know of any music with an unusual combination of instruments that works particularly well? Just make sure the band would be able to fit into a small "chamber," say the size of a subway car or smaller.

Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.


The Jazz Chamber Trio

Nessun dorma

Giacomo Puccini
Don Byron, arranger
Don Byron, clarinet; Uri Caine, piano
Blue Note

Swara-Kakali (based on Raga Tilang)
Ravi ShankarDaniel Hope, violin
Gaurav Mazumdar, sitar
Asok Chakroborty, tabla
Gilda Sebastian, tanpura
Sebastian Knauer, piano, lutheal
Warner Classics

Guy Klucevsek
Guy Klucevsek, accordion
Sara Parkins, violin
Margaret Parkins, cello
Achim Tang, bass

Pitter Patter Panther

Edward K. (Duke) Ellington
Mulgrew Miller, piano  
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass
Bang & Olufsen

Adagio from the Serenade No. 10 for Winds (Gran Partita)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Marlboro Wind Ensemble
Richard Stoltzman, clarinet

Folk Music
Judd Greenstein
NOW Ensemble
New Amsterdam

Her First Dance
Misha Alperin
Misha Alperin, piano
Arkady Shilkloper, french horn, flugelhorn

Nocturne No. 13, Op. 119
Gabriel Faure
Kathryn Stott, piano

U.S. Highball
Harry Partch
Gate 5 Ensemble
New World

Oracion Lucumi

Osvaldo Golijov
Matt Haimovitz, cello
John McLaughlin, guitar


Dino Saluzzi
Dino Saluzzi, bandoneon; Anja Lechner, cello

Kenji Bunch
The Queen's Chamber Band
Veronica Salas, viola  
Elaine Comparone, harpsichord
Capstone Records

I Got It Bad
Edward K. (Duke) Ellington
Mulgrew Miller, piano
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass
Bang & Olufsen

Comments [5]

Bob- I'm thinking maybe Terrence meant "one player per part".

But a great show all the same. What a range of styles and instruments included. I'm going to have to hunt down the music (as well as a bandoneon player!) for that piece by Dino Saluzzi.

Any show that manages to bring together Mozart, a sitar, a jazz group, an accordion, and a flugelhorn under one umbrella is simply amazing.

Jul. 26 2011 04:12 PM
gina ballinger from Graz, Austria

i have played this evenings music so often! my "chamber music" expression is to be seen on my website and thats where i listen to WQXR the most. thank you : )

Apr. 08 2011 02:33 AM
Michael Meltzer

In my list of 19th-century orchestral transcriptions, I omitted the large number of 1-piano, 4-hand arrangements that were very popular. Most of them went out of print in the 1920's as the recording industry took off, but the Beethoven Symphonies still remain in a few editions as great 4-hand favorites.

Apr. 03 2011 03:00 PM
Michael Meltzer

It should be understood that the "palace chamber" characterization of chamber music really applies to the Baroque and early Classical eras. As a European middle class emerged in the 1800's, both public concerts and a thriving music publishing industry got going. Publications for the most common week-end living-room ensembles boomed. If you ever get a chance to look at a mid-19th century publisher's catalog, you will see more than half the contents devoted to orchestral transcriptions for piano solo, violin & piano, piano trio and string quartet. In the absence of radio and recordings, that is how listeners brought concert music to their homes, and why the great bulk of chamber music is written for a relatively smallish number of common instrumental combinations.
Experimentation found the most fertile ground in conservatories and universities, where skilled players of a larger variety of instruments were found, but it didn't necessarily follow that a music publisher would take a commercial interest in publication of an odd combination unless the composer was "pre-sold" to the public.
Things weren't so different than they are today.

Apr. 02 2011 11:02 PM
Bob Reminick from Mastic, LI

"one player per instrument"
hmmm ... 'cept them quartets w/ 2 fiddles

Apr. 02 2011 10:20 PM

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