Haynes - "Chamber music repertoire for Amateur players".

April 8, 2021, 7:54 AM · It seems this was lost in the recent quartet topic - but I think it should have its own updated topic. This
Harold Haynes, labour of love, book should be at the right hand of every amateur (and I think most professional) chamber music aficionado - not to mention every teacher.

I am always astonished how violinists (and other chamber musicians) actually have this in their collection. Indeed, I don't know how they can plan their sessions without it. Just about every significant piece of chamber music you are likely to know is listed under categories of string trio, quartet, piano trio etc etc. Within each category, each piece is broken down to movements and for each of these there is a ranking for 'musical value' (obviously subjective, but also quite accurate), difficulty for the first violinist (ditto) and (usually) the cellist with the other instruments mentioned where relevant.

Not only that but at the end of each category Haynes provides lists where the pieces are graded in order of 'musical value'. For example, (string quartet) strong players; strong violinist, average cellist; average players; average violinist, modest cellist; modest violinist, strong cellist, modest players; professional violist; prominent viola part; easy viola/2nd violin. Not only that, but for composers who have a prolific output - notably Haydn, they give a separate ranking.

Its my bible for planning chamber sessions - but also for my own private study and has introduced me to countless amazing pieces. Note, however, that the emphasis is on Amateur musicians and while movements that are probably beyond us are flagged as 'professional only', the post-conservatory player is not the main focus of the book.

Best single investment chamber music book ever for me by far.

Replies (15)

April 8, 2021, 10:13 AM · Is this the book?
https://www.amazon.com/Chamber-Music-Repertoire-Amateur-Players/dp/B00O0KKBG4
April 8, 2021, 10:33 AM · Yes, except that I think there is a revised edition with a grey or blue cover. You would probably get that anyway if you bought it new.

[But I always try to buy from a non-Amazon book dealer if I can.]

April 8, 2021, 3:22 PM · Just wanted to make sure I had the right volume.
April 8, 2021, 5:25 PM · There is only one. It feels like someone typed up their lecture notes :D

I wonder why there is so little interest about this here. Does it mean few members actually play chamber music? Or maybe amateurs are in the minority...

April 8, 2021, 6:09 PM · Maybe they play chamber music but not so much as to want this book?
April 8, 2021, 6:50 PM · I do not think you can measure the level of interest by the number of posts on a thread. This thread starts with an important bit of information. But there are no opinions in there; nobody sees a need to contradict or even confirm; it is an obviously useful post. I myself was not aware of this book for example. If there were another similar book (there is in fact; in German by a man named Altmann; but it is too old by now) somebody would have posted the information in this thread.
April 8, 2021, 8:14 PM · You have a point Albrecht - perhaps if I had posted instead 'Haynes got it all wrong about Debussy' there would be a reason to react. However, I'm still a bit surprised, if its a popular resource its worth a comment (tables turned, I sure would have).

And thanks for the Altmann citation - I had not heard of that. Unfortunately, I don't read German or I would look it up.

April 8, 2021, 8:32 PM · Oh was this in my quartet thread? I will definetely order it, probably on Amazon, and I’ll tell you what I think. Thanks for the suggestion.
Edited: April 9, 2021, 2:11 AM · @Albrecht - I haven't seen Wilhelm Altmann's Catalogue of Chamber Music Works but I suspect it's somewhat like Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey, i.e. more of a musicological reference source than a practical manual. I can see the value of such a book as Haynes's (that presumably doesn't run to 1200 pages like Cobbett's) but sadly I think it's true, certainly in the UK, that amateur chamber music with its 400-year history is now in deep decline. What's to be done I wonder?
April 9, 2021, 8:00 AM · Tam - yes it was but I thought it needed a more general exposure.
April 9, 2021, 8:02 AM · Steve, I think its everywhere. The problem probably is the decline of classical school orchestras - I suppose you have the same in England. Here youth orchestras are now regional - each town seems to have one whereas it used to be each school.
April 9, 2021, 8:20 AM · To be honest; I haven't seen a copy of Altmann's book since my teenage. And it was already old back then. It covers quite a few late 19th century composers (Draeseke for example) who have since fallen by the wayside as far as standard repertoire goes. Looking from my present perspective I also suspect a (too) heavy focus on German composers.

However, it was not as encyclopedic as you describe Cobbet. And it was aimed at amateurs; it would point out pieces that the author felt suitable for amateurs and discourage amateurs from attempting other pieces.

Which brings me to Silvertrust Editions: A music publisher focussing on rarely played chamber music. They do generally rate their pieces as to difficulty (not using a grading system but describing the level in words) and also rate them as "suitable for amateurs" or "good enough for professional performance". And it is for rarely played repertoire that we really appreciate the difficulty gradings--unreliable though they always are--everyone who plays knows how difficult the major warhorses are.

Link: https://www.editionsilvertrust.com

April 10, 2021, 8:30 AM · A propos decline of amateur chamber music: Isn't it odd for this complaint to come up in a thread originated by 4 young people keen to begin to do amateur chamber music?

Laurie, here is a proposal for a weekend question: "Do you play chamber music?" which sub-questions specifying the percentage of violin time going to chamber music. We could then see how far the decline has gone.

April 10, 2021, 9:50 AM · As to putting a finger on the reason for the decline, I can at least point to the counter-factors without which I might never have got started. First, I was schooled a safe distance from the comforts and distractions of home (I recommend it!); second, although not a breeding ground for prodigies my school had a strong classical music culture; third, my teacher did all he could to encourage it. Today that same school doesn't even appear to have a symphony orchestra or a permanent string teacher.
April 10, 2021, 10:16 AM · Albrecht - we had a question like that very recently (I actually suggested it). It seemed that most people are keen on it here - but maybe not so keen planning or reading about it :D


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