Notes and Editorial Reviews
The term "chamber music" broadly implies music on an intimate scale performed by a limited number of musicians. The heart of civilized 18th-century European musical culture is best represented by that most perfect of forms the string quartet, developed by Haydn and Mozart into models of elegance and expressive balance. Embracing instruments new for his time, Mozart’s chamber music also resulted in sublime masterpieces such as the Clarinet Quintet, but it was Beethoven who expanded the length and complexity of the string quartet to its limits. Beethoven left an indelible mark of progress and change on every genre of music, and both the ‘Archduke’ Trio and ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata are milestones in chamber music history.
Beethoven’s romantic independence of spirit and powerfully personal musical language was carried forward by Schubert and Mendelssohn, both of whom introduced emotion-enhancing literary sentiments into their expressive range. The symphonic proportions of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet places it at the pinnacle of the classical line through Mozart and Beethoven, but romantic ideals in music were already being applied to the cause of national identity. Antonín Dvo?ák’s ‘Dumky’ Trio takes its name from a ballad of lament, integrating national dance elements to create a distinctive Czech and Bohemian flavor. The move away from German stylistic examples by the Russian ‘mighty handful’ can be heard in Borodin’s soulful String Quartet No 2. Innovation in chamber music can be found everywhere, but there are few such works as striking as César Franck’s Violin Sonata, a flawless synthesis of classical proportion and the spirit of romanticism in its cyclic development of a single theme.
This collection of great chamber music brings together nine giants of music in works which reveal their most immediate and individual expressive worlds: proof if ever any was needed that less can be much, much more.