Sunday, 21 August 2011

Chamber Music

Edinburgh's Queen's Hall
For Fantasy Bob, Chamber Music is like Test Cricket - the highest form of art and definitely for grown ups.  The chamber music programme at the Queens Hall is one of the pleasures of the Edinburgh Festival and FB dips into it from time to time.  It is very grown up, indeed this is one of the increasingly few audiences that FB can join and lower the average age.

This week he has been fortunate enough to hear 2 of his firmest favourite chamber works.  Schubert's Octet and Beethoven's String Quartet Op130.  These two cricketers are very high in the all time averages - Beethoven is of course at the very top surpassing even Bradman - his last innings was a triumph not an anti-climactic duck.  It is hard to imagine Beethoven being bowled by Eric Hollies.

Schubert died at the age of 31 but composed over 1000 works - a strike rate to compare with any and he could have named his price in the IPL.

Beethoven - tops the averages
But maybe these chamber music composers weren't cricketers, for FB is not aware of any works for 11 players.  Perhaps this reflects the struggle they had raising teams in those days or perhaps the dominance of the quartet form suggests that the four man attack which has been such a success for England recently is not such an innovation after all.  There are quintets, septets, octets even a few nonets but that is about it.  Mozart wrote a wind serenade for 13 instruments once on a rare occasion when he had selection problems, but FB is not aware of any work for 11 players. 

FB will argue to anyone who will listen (ie no one at all) that Beethoven's Op130 is pretty near perfection.  It is mature and reflective music, of compelling charm grace and depth.  Not unlike some of FB's better innings. The fifth movement, Cavatina, was chosen as the last piece on the golden record - a record containing a broad sample of Earth's common sounds, languages, and music sent into outerspace with the twoVoyager probes (Chuck Berry was also on the disc). 
The alternative final movement of the quartet was the last piece that Beethoven completed before he died and he never heard the final version of the work which was first performed only one month after his death.  The original final movement - the great fugue - is still considered the most radically modern piece of music ever written - it is full of reverse sweeps and scoops.  It transcends any period.  Test Match Quality and more.

 FB can think of nothing better in the whole of chamber music than Op 130's fourth movement.  The only version on You Tube is not as overewhelming as some of the great quartets - but it captures the essence of this truly great piece.  Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment