A Friend's Guide to Chamber Music: European Trends from Haydn to Shostakovich Nancy Monsman Author
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Traditionally, it’s the music that speaks from the stage, not themusicians themselves. By the beginning of the 20th century, theconcert hall and the music chamber were no longer regarded asappropriate venues for loud conversing, heavy drinking, recklessgambling, and high-society ogling. The concert, formerly regardedas a means of light if elegant entertainment, had become a sacredrite. Musicians and audience members alike were now expected tosit down, shut up, and focus solely and worshipfully on the music.If you were surprised or confused by the music, nobody couldhelp you—except the person who had written the explanatorynotes in the printed program you clutched in your hands.Today, the atmosphere is a bit more casual, though thankfullynot the free-for-all it had been in the 18th century. Performers seemmore relaxed; their dress is often more laid-back, their body languagelooser. And many of them are eager to say a few unscriptedwords to the audience, especially if they are introducing unfamiliarmusic.Quite frequently now, an ensemble will arrive in Tucson for anArizona Friends of Chamber Music concert expecting to give someintroductory remarks about a new or unusual composition they’reabout to play. Then they open the printed program, read NancyMonsman’s notes, and realize that all the essential information isalready there. They end up telling a couple of amusing anecdotesand urging that people learn more by reading, in their words, “theexcellent notes in your programs.” resources, and I have strong opinions about how notes should bewritten. It is my strong opinion that Nancy Monsman’s programnotes are models of clarity and concision, providing exactly theinformation you need before the music takes over. When you’reseated in the concert hall, waiting for the downbeat, you don’t havemuch time to read up on what you’re about to hear. There’s no wayyou could get through a chapter of cultural background on eachpiece, followed by a detailed technical analysis. You need notesthat, in a very few paragraphs, can set the scene for the composerand the composition, then provide just enough detail to help youfind your way through the music you are about to hear.Nancy’s notes provide exactly that sort of guide. And now weare proud to present that guide in a format you can consult at yourleisure, and at your pleasure, particularly if you’d like on your ownto trace a composer’s career more systematically than you can in asingle concert. Let this be your knowledgeable companion as youexplore the puzzles and delights of European chamber music.JAMES REELPresident, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music


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