Meaning of CHAMBER MUSIC in English


music composed for small ensembles of instrumentalists. In its original sense chamber music referred to music composed for the home, as opposed to that written for the theatre or church. Since the homewhether it be drawing room, reception hall, or palace chambermay be assumed to be of limited size, chamber music most often permits no more than one player to a part. It usually dispenses with a conductor. Music written for combinations of stringed or wind instruments, often with a keyboard (piano or harpsichord) as well, and music for voices with or without accompaniment have historically been included in the term. An essential characteristic of chamber music results from the limited size of the performing group employed: it is intimate music, suited to the expression of subtle and refined musical ideas. Rich displays of varied instrumental colour, and striking effects produced by sheer sonority, play little part in chamber music. In place of those effects are refinement, economy of resources, and flawless acoustical balance. This article discusses instrumental ensemble music written for groups of two to eight players with one player to a part, and in which stringed instruments and piano (or harpsichord) supply the principal interest. music composed for small ensembles of instrumentalists (usually two to eight) and traditionally performed without a conductor. The music traditionally was written for performance in a room or reception hall before a small audience but now is commonly performed in concert halls. Chamber music could be said to have started with the madrigals and consorts of the 16th century. Most of the instrumental works consisted of fantasias, dances, and suites written in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. Domestic music began to flourish in the aristocratic houses of England, Italy, and Germany of the 17th century, and the musicians were often members of the household. During the 18th century, chamber music flourished in literary and artistic circles throughout Europe. Much of it consisted of solo and trio sonatas by such composers as Arcangelo Corelli, often for continuo instrument and strings. From this developed the classical trio with a much more prominent role for the pianoforte. It was left to Joseph Haydn almost to invent and develop the new form of the string quartet, which ideally reflected the 18th century's sense of classical form, with four instruments conversing on equal terms. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven further enhanced the form, andwith Haydngave chamber music the status it has today. They poured their most sustained invention and their most profound ideas into their quartets (and, in Mozart's case, quintets). Works written at this time for mixed ensembles were usually lighter in character, and indeed were often termed serenades or divertimenti. As the 19th century progressed not only did composers such as Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, and Antonn Dvork add immeasurably to the store of chamber music, but it was also being performed more and more frequently in public. Professional quartets came into being to fulfill demand for public performance, though amateurs continued to perform chamber music in the drawing room. In the 20th century, the repertory has been further enriched by Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Bla Bartk, Dmitry Shostakovich, and Benjamin Britten among others, and the genre shows no sign of languishing even in a musical world often more concerned with experimental forms. This century has also seen a renewal of interest in combining the voice with chamber groups. Arnold Schoenberg, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, and, more recently, Pierre Boulez and Maxwell Davies have shown interest in adapting the form to their somewhat esoteric needs. The technical difficulty of much recent chamber music has taken it outside the range of most amateur players in the home, but chamber groups nevertheless continue to perform the classical repertory enthusiastically for small groups in the private house. Chamber music, particularly the quartet, is still considered by many persons to be the purest form of music by virtue of its ideal balance of instruments. Because it is still often performed for pleasure by small groups of people, it probably gives the most lasting pleasure to more music lovers than any other kind of music. Additional reading Walter W. Cobbett, Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, 2nd ed. by Colin Mason, 3 vol. (1963), an invaluable and comprehensive work containing analyses and descriptions of works and topics in the field; Edwin Evans, Handbook to Brahms, vol. 2 and 3, Chamber and Orchestral Music (193335), contains detailed analyses and comparisons of all of Brahms's chamber-music works, with a general overview of his style; Ernst Meyer, English Chamber Music (1946, reprinted 1951), a specialized study devoted primarily to the works of Elizabethan and later 17th-century composers; Donald Francis Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis: Chamber Music (1944), a standard work that covers, in nontechnical language, large areas of the repertory; Homer Ulrich, Chamber Music, 2nd ed. (1966), a historical account of the field before Haydn, with descriptive analyses and history of the repertory since 1750.

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