Daily Archives: October 12, 2011

The Piano Quartet: A Winning Combination

If an orchestra is like a giant horde of laborers erecting a mighty pyramid and a recital by a soloist is like a spider weaving an intricate web, then a chamber music performance is like a few proud workers building a well-crafted cottage.

Often when folks think of chamber music, they think of string quartets.  For you classical music neophytes, the string quartet is traditionally 2 violins, a viola and a cello.  It’s a well regarded ensemble with lots of works written for it: from the Haydn and Mozart string quartets of the classical era to the masterpieces of Beethoven to the 20th century cleverness of Shostakovich and beyond.

But let me be almost sacrilegiously honest.  All that stringy sawing in my ears can sometimes be a bit much.  I feel the same way about the incessant plinking of solo piano works.  What’s a composer or listener to do?  Combine the two.

Thus I’m a fan of piano trios and piano quartets.  The piano trio is not 3 pianos but rather violin, cello and piano.  And the piano quartet is not 4 pianos; it’s violin, viola, cello and piano.  And of the two, the piano quartet is somewhat neglected so let me recommend some for you to check out:

Of course, there are many more piano quartets in our CD collection, but that should give you a start with this fine art form.

– Tim

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