"Chamber music keeps you honest." I can't remember who said it, but it rings true.
When you play quartets, quintets and trios, for example, you have to hold your own. Why? One big reason is that there is only one person on each part. By contrast, in an orchestra section, other people also play the same parts, counting the same rests, filling in where one person might miss a note or have a mental lapse. There is some comfort in the section. But in a quartet or trio, every member must fully represent his or her part. There is no safety net, no one will save you if you mis-count!
It's also just a lot of fun. I've had the great pleasure of playing in a reading quartet with group of colleagues over the past few years and alas! Our violist is moving out of town! It won't be the same. Finding a group of people who get along musically and personally is one of those treasures in life, whether the group has academic, professional, or amateur goals.
One of my students is just getting started, playing in a quartet at school, and she asked me for some suggestions. I found myself saying, "There's a piece I think you'd all like by Mozart, 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'..." It almost seemed too obvious to suggest! Yet there is a reason it's so popular; it's a gem of a piece. And it's a tiny tip of the iceberg - the repertoire for chamber music is enormous, far-ranging and still growing.
Do you play chamber music? What are your favorite pieces to play? How have you made the group dynamics work? Please participate in the vote and then share your experiences in the comments.
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