Friday, April 15, 2011


Yesterday, I had the great chance to play chamber music with eight other musicians in a nonet. If three's a trio and four's a quartet, nine is a nonet.

Chamber music commonly combines wind instruments or string instruments--think of the classic string quartet (two violins, a viola and a cello). But--some composers have used the larger ensemble to get a richer sound, mixing winds and strings into a mini orchestra. We had me on bass, plus a cello, viola, violin, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and flute.

The group was about half men and half women in a range of ages but tending to those in their middle to senior years--but all full of vitality and energy. The photo is NOT us--as you can surely tell. The important thing was, we played together and made a good sound.

The difficulty of sightreading the selections varied. The first piece, by Louise Farrenc, was a beautiful mid-nineteenth century work by a female composer--a bit unusual--but it wasn't too much of a struggle. The second piece, by Bohuslav Martinu, was a hundred years newer, and had the intensity and intellectual brilliance of the 1940's. With its twist and turns in key, time signature and note length, it made for much more effort--and I got lost more often. This kind of chamber music is more work, but with enough practice could be a great experience.

A third piece, by Louis Spohr, was played as an Octet, because this bass player was called away. For what? Read tomorrow's post to find out. 8-)

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