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Corwin Slack

Chamber Music

October 8, 2007 at 7:31 PM

From time to time friends acquaintances (and in the more distant past me) have tried to organize chamber music events of one sort or another.

Almost everything has failed. The only exception was sort of a miracle. It was the Mendelssohn Octet with 5 professionals and 3 amateurs. I don't know how it happened but every effort since has been a decisive failure.

I am more than a little disillusioned and I am very reluctant to get involved in new efforts. It isn't that I don't want to play chamber music. I actually do but I am tired of futility.

Here are my rules: (Keep in mind that I am an amateur.)

1. Everyone can play their part at tempo at the first rehearsal. Amateurs may have some ensemble or continuity issues that may need to be worked out in rehearsal but there is no "I'll learn this by the next rehearsal" or the like. This clearly affects what is attempted.
2. No mixing of amateurs and professionals unless the professionals are paid at local union scale. Professionals make their living playing music and you cannot hold them to a rehearsal schedule in lieu of income. By the same token if a professional says they'll play then it has to be a contracted priority. If an amateur member begs off the professional still gets paid unless the professional replaces the chamber gig with something else.
3. The rehearsals start with a definite goal and and end date for the repertory being played. Typically it will be a performance.

My rules are stringent and they disqualify me for opportunities because I can't meet rule 1 for significant amounts of chamber repertory. Generally it means no reading. But the rules also protect my expectations.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 9, 2007 at 1:46 AM
I too have found it incredibly frustrating trying to put together decentt chamber music sessions. Even at the Royal College where it wa sofficial getting a quartet together was logistically almost impossible. In the real world.....
There is one absolute for me: if even one player is not of a comparable standard (whatever thta is) it`s not going to work.
Having bene unable to create a performing quartet I enede dup with a piano trio which is a wholediffernt set of fascinating challenges. One rule of rehearsal we use is that eveyone gets forty five minutes in which they decide what music to practice (or scales or whatever) and how it is pracitced . During thta time they are the absolute boss. Using this appraoch fporced my more haphazrd colleagues to think about what we are doing and why as well as exposing exactly what we feel about whatis going on and how it should be corrected.
From Terry Hsu
Posted on October 9, 2007 at 7:14 AM
I have found that if I am willing to put in the work to get a performance venue setup, invite the audience, provide the parts and score, the rehearsal space, interesting recordings, an interpretation, run the rehearsals, record the concert, play solo bach to help fill up the program, find coaches, and encourage others, it's pretty easy to get a quartet together.

While it felt more than a little unfair that I was doing all that work in my group, the end result was very satisfying.

If one is willing to put in more work than the others in the group, one will be able to create groups to play in.

While it isn't exactly fair, it's still worth it. At least it was to me.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on October 9, 2007 at 4:03 PM
The piano is a particular challenge. One can be a quite accomplished pianist and find the chamber repertory very daunting. The great composers were excellent pianists and the piano parts are demanding at a level higher than the string parts.

My teacher (who is a conservatory trained pianist) says that the piano parts take twice as long to learn as the string parts. (yes he plays the string parts).

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 9, 2007 at 10:38 PM
yes, if one wa sbeing honest about it a great many piano trios are piano sonatas with minimalist string accompaniament.

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