Hi, I’m Maria Raspopova and I am Omega Ensemble’s Co-Artistic Director and Pianist. As musicians we perform a lot of music, but we also listen to a lot of music (and sometimes we get to play the marvellous pieces we hear). I’m delighted to be sharing some of my musical playlist with you in this blog. Here are my top 5 chamber music pieces. I hope you enjoy them as music as I do.
1. Olivier Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
As the legend goes, Messiaen composed this piece while he was in a prisoner of war camp. One of the guards in the camp supplied Messiaen with paper and pencils so he could compose the music. The premiere of the work took place on January 15, 1941 with over seven hundred officers and prisoners huddled around to hear the music. The title has a double meaning for Messiaen. On one hand it refers to the biblical phrase “There shall be time no longer,” and on on the other hand it refers to the technicality of the music. A steady beat, proclaimed Messiaen, had no life in it, and there had been enough of the old one-two-three-four beat during the war.
It’s an epic piece and everyone knows it. I’m attracted to it because of its darkness. I have never played it but we are planning on performing it next year.
2. Franz Schubert Piano Quintet in A Major “Trout”
When Schubert composed his famed Piano Quintet “The Trout,” it was from a commission from his friends. Schubert wrote much of his music for social gatherings with his friends, which were called Schubertiades, and it was in these settings that Schubert most loved his music to be performed. His Piano Quintet takes its name from his song “The Trout,” and he uses this melody as the basis for a theme and variations in the fourth movement of the Quintet.
To me it’s glamorous and luscious. I've been rehearsing it for the July concert, and for me, playing it is like the feeling you get when you go on an amazing family trip. It’s full of joy and adventure.
3. Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A Major K.581
Chamber music is about friendships, musical conversation and communication, so it is so fitting that Mozart composed his famed clarinet quintet for his good friend, Anton Stadler. This music represents chamber music at its finest. There are exciting moments of energy, contrasted with those tender and beautiful melodies that just float around gracefully and with such elegance.
I always say clarinet is my second instrument. I don’t play it, but it has been a part of my life through fellow students, colleagues, and now my husband (David Rowden). For me, this quintet is the epitome of everything I love about the instrument.
4. John Adams Chamber Symphony
When John Adams composed his chamber symphony he sat in one room working on the score while his sat in the adjacent room watching cartoons (good cartoons, one’s from the ‘50s,’ says Adams). “The tradition of American cartoon music–and I freely acknowledge that I am only one of a host of people scrambling to jump on that particular bandwagon–also suggested a further model for a music that was at once flamboyantly virtuosic and polyphonic,” says Adams.Written for 15 instruments and scored for 22 instruments, Adams’ Chamber Symphony bears some striking similarities to Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony.
We performed this in 2013 and it was one of the most exciting discoveries of that season. It was fun especially because I got to play a keyboard and use 16 different sound effects, which is something I never get to do!.
5. Beethoven, Sonata No. 5 for Violin & Piano “Spring”
When Beethoven composed his “Spring” sonata he was looking to the future with his musical ideas. This is a work that stands on the very edge of his first period and the beginnings of what scholars call his ‘middle period,’ which according to Beethoven’s biographer, Maynard Solomon, include many ‘heaven-storming compositions - works of striking power and energy, with many formal innovations.’ It is one of the first of Beethoven’s works to include a fourth movement (as opposed to three) and there are many beautiful moments in this work. It is one of those pieces that is a true musical partnership - in that the roles of the pianist the violinist (or in this case, the clarinetist) are equal.
David and I will be performing this work (arranged for clarinet and piano) as part of our regional tour in June. I love Beethoven, and this sonata is stunning. I hear a lot of intimacy in the music and playing it with David will be truly meaningful.
I hope you have enjoyed some of my favourite chamber music pieces and that you find them as interesting and beautiful as I do. I’d love you to see you at Omega’s next concert at City Recital Hall on July 27, where I will be performing Schubert’s Trout with the other talent musicians of Omega Ensemble. Click below for more information and to order tickets