Chamber Music


Chamber music is noramlly defined as music for a small group of players (3 or more). This is normally one player per part.

Chamber music would typically be performed in smaller, often private, rooms. In particular, within the palaces or castles of aristocratic patrons. Originally, chamber music was not performed in large public concerts.

Some chamber music was written for amateur performers. Some aristocrats were excellent musicians, and patronage and commissions are important for the purpose of chamber music.

As the period progressed, chamber music became increasingly important.

Trios, Quartets and Quintets

Some ensembles were fixed and had specific names. These ensembles always had the same combination of instruments, and they became the most important genres for our 3 composers.

String Trio: Violin, Viola, Cello
String Quartet: Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello
String Quintet: Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola 1, Viola 2, Cello

Other ensembles were more flexible, although names were similar. Some of these became important genres, and others were rarer, at times even unique for specific composers. For example:

Piano Trio: Piano, Violin, Cello
Clarinet Quintet (Mozart): Clarinet, Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello
Clarinet Trio (Mozart): Clarinet, Viola, Piano

Chamber Music Forms

The number and order of movements is fairly stable for many chamber music genres. This changed over time - Mozart and Beethoven expanded the size and number of movements.

Earlier works, particularly works by Haydn and Mozart often had three movements:

Movement Tempo Form
First Fast Sonata Allegro
Second Slow / Dance Varied (often ternary)
Finale Fast Rondo or Theme/Variations

In later works, particularly by Beethoven, an extra movement was often added:

Movement Tempo Form
First Fast Sonata Allegro
Second Normally slow Varied (often ternary)
Third (Normally fast) Dance Ternary (Scherzo & Trio)
Finale Fast Sonata / Sonata Rondo

Nested Ternary Form

A nested ternary form is a form where each section in the overall form are binary or rounded binary forms.

(A1 B1) (A2 B2) (A1 B1)