French Chamber Music

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dulcinea
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French Chamber Music

Post by dulcinea » Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:30 pm

Today's 7PM Masterpiece was the string quartet in F that is Ravel's most famous example of chamber music. It's a pleasant work, but I doubt that it deserves comparison with those of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartok.
As you have already guessed:
which French composers wrote truly outstanding quartets, quintets, and similar works?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

piston
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by piston » Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:59 pm

1902-03 is still on the edge of his maturity (27-28 years of age). Keep that in mind when you compare one composer to another. They grow, artistically!

If your topic is French chamber music, a huge topic, do remember that this genre was not a paying proposition back then and many, such as Debussy and Faure invested themselves in it late in their artistic life.

All of Debussy's late sonatas are gorgeous, imo, and you may want to start there as a basis of comparison with Haydn or whoever else! Ravel's piano trio, his tzigane for violin and piano (which may really appeal to your Spanish heritage) are the works of maturity you should listen to.

Compare maturity with maturity.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by piston » Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:15 pm

Nearly 300,000 hits on this one:
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

jbuck919
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:11 pm

dulcinea wrote:Today's 7PM Masterpiece was the string quartet in F that is Ravel's most famous example of chamber music. It's a pleasant work, but I doubt that it deserves comparison with those of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartok.
As you have already guessed:
which French composers wrote truly outstanding quartets, quintets, and similar works?
I disagree with your premise. The Ravel quartet is a masterpiece, on the same plane with, if quite different from, those of Bartok. No chamber work written in the 20th century deserves comparison with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

piston
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by piston » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:27 pm

The last statement is too sweeping for me. There were composers who were conservative enough to be compared to Beethoven and Mozart, such as Sergei Taneyev. But, working on their own concept of national aesthetic, different from anyone else, most French composers after Saint-Saens certainly were not interested in comparable elements with the German-Austrian icons. Neither were composers in many countries aspiring to express their own idiom, and Hungary was more nationalistic than Russia on that count.

The French pedagogical revolution that drew so many students from around the world, in the early years of the 20th century, was simple enough: find the language that best speaks of your country, your people, your place on earth. That's why Americans went to Paris in such large numbers. Scandinavia mostly didn't come to Paris. It went to Germany. And cultural emancipation came, not from the country that didn't appreciate Sibelius, but from their own national circumstances and institution building.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

John F
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by John F » Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:33 am

dulcinea wrote:Today's 7PM Masterpiece was the string quartet in F that is Ravel's most famous example of chamber music. It's a pleasant work, but I doubt that it deserves comparison with those of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartok.
A pointless comparison anyway, which Ravel certainly didn't aspire to. But it's an outstanding quartet, and no doubt the best composed in 1903. :)

Debussy's string quartet, on which Ravel's is modeled in some degree, is also outstanding music. Not Beethovenian in the least, to the contrary, but very Debussy - he wrote it at just the time he was beginning work on "Pelléas et Mélisande" and it sounds it.



Luigi Cherubini was of course born in Italy but he settled in France in his 20s, and by the time he composed his first string quartet 30 years later he was in all respects a Frenchman. Beethoven admired his music, and his quartets might appeal to you.

John Francis

dulcinea
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by dulcinea » Wed Aug 12, 2015 3:40 pm

What about Milhaud?
The weasels pretend to admire him for his productiveness and success as a teacher, but all they play of him are trivial little pieces that are monumentally forgettable. :( :( :( :( :( :x :x :x :x :x
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

jbuck919
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:41 pm

We're getting a bit quibbly here. John F recommends Cherubini. Overlooking the half-French Chopin's piano trio for the moment, perhaps I am permitted to recommend Franck, even though he was Belgian. There are a couple of chamber works that prefigure what we think of as "French chamber music" better than Cherubini.

Piston says that this is a huge topic. I assume he is referring at least in part to Les Six, which brings us to dulcinea's comment about Milhaud. Whatever might have been produced by that bunch, I only know some of Poulenc, who is certainly to be recommended. I have less feeling for Messiaen, but I don't suppose that Tampa's classical music radio station is going to be broadcasting much Boulez anytime soon, though he is a French composer whose chamber works I do take seriously.
Last edited by jbuck919 on Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

piston
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by piston » Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:26 pm

Poulenc's chamber music is really excellent. Composers used different genres for different artistic purposes and, for Poulenc, chamber music was not always an occasion to be "light" about composition. There are five volumes of his complete chamber music on Naxos and none of it includes a string quartet. His chamber music is like a musical autobiography, from the light Histoire de Babar, for children, to the more somber Sonata for violin and piano written in occupied Paris in memory of Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca and performed there in 1943, with Ginette Neveu and Poulenc at the piano. That's a bold political work when you know the whole context. Milhaud, as I have posted elsewhere, saw his string quartets as non-commercial products from his heart and soul, which he dedicated to true friends (Madeleine said that he gave them away). When you know some of Milhaud's music, it's not difficult to hear these works as autobiographical too.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

John F
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by John F » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:25 pm

dulcinea wrote:What about Milhaud? The weasels pretend to admire him for his productiveness and success as a teacher, but all they play of him are trivial little pieces that are monumentally forgettable.
I've heard some of Milhaud's 18 string quartets and don't like the music, so I didn't recommend it. Incidentally, his 14th and 15th quartets are composed in such a way that if played simultaneously, they are a string octet. The Budapest Quartet recorded both quartets and therefore the octet for Columbia back in the '50s.

In fact there isn't much of Milhaud's music that I do like - "Le Boeuf sur le Toit" and "La Création du Monde" are about it.
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by maestrob » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:16 am

I have not much to add here, except to say that I have admired both the Debussy and Ravel string quartets since childhood as great music. Ravel's Tzigane is a masterpiece, Debussy's piano Trio less so but still good. Frank's Piano Quartet is very good, as is Chausson's concert piece (recorded both by Heifetz and Jorge Bolet in different eras). There's a Trio for harp and flute with violin by Debussy that's ravishing.

Enjoy!

jbuck919
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:46 pm

maestrob wrote:There's a Trio for harp and flute with violin by Debussy that's ravishing.
Viola, you mean. ;)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

piston
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by piston » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:58 pm

And the piano trio isn't that great because Claude was 18 when he wrote it. Do you guys factor in age when you evaluate a work?! I wish he had had the health and energy to finish his "six sonatas," as he was dying from rectal cancer. All three of those he did complete are pure artistry.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by piston » Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:15 pm

There's no "template" here, no artistic mold being followed with ingenious variations on that idiom. This is direct expression without any recognition of Mozart, Beethoven, whomever:
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

John F
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by John F » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:20 am

piston wrote:Do you guys factor in age when you evaluate a work?!
No I don't. If the composer published it and didn't later withdraw it, as William Schuman did his first two symphonies, he asks for no such consideration and I don't see why we should give it.
John Francis

erato
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by erato » Tue Sep 01, 2015 4:36 pm

Faure. More or less all of it. And Debussy's late sonatas, as already mentioned

Febnyc
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by Febnyc » Tue Sep 01, 2015 5:19 pm

...which French composers wrote truly outstanding quartets, quintets, and similar works?
Theodore Dubois (1837-1924) wrote some exquisite chamber music.

The Atma label has recorded many of Dubois' works.

Alexis de Castillon (1838-1873) - a lovely Piano Quartet - find it on the Arion label, coupled with the magnificent Piano Quartet of Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). A brilliant disc!

jbuck919
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 01, 2015 5:55 pm

Febnyc wrote:
...which French composers wrote truly outstanding quartets, quintets, and similar works?
Theodore Dubois (1837-1924) wrote some exquisite chamber music.

The Atma label has recorded many of Dubois' works.
It is wonderful to hear from you, Frank.

Dubois is most famous, of course, for his Seven Last Words. If there is anything by him besides that kind of meretricious work on YouTube I have not found it, not that YouTube has suddenly become the last word. But why should I be surprised if he wrote fine chamber music? Franck did the same, and still has to live down the execrable Panis Angelicus.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Lance
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Re: French Chamber Music

Post by Lance » Thu Sep 03, 2015 7:53 pm

Totally agree with this statement, especially with regard to Fauré. The Debussy and Ravel grow on one the more you hear them.
erato wrote:Faure. More or less all of it. And Debussy's late sonatas, as already mentioned
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