New sounds for a new world – The Chamber Project With a French Flair – Matthew Hanna & Christopher Tavernier

The end of western tonality, begun subtly by Brahms and made explicit by Debussy, posed a crisis for composers of the 20th century.  It was not merely an issue of finding new types of harmonies and melodic systems to replace the diatonic scale that was the basis of western harmony; the whole structure of western music – the relationships between movements and between structural elements within movements – was based on the relationships between different keys, so composers were challenged with building a whole new structure for music.  This was coupled with the feeling that the era that saw the invention of automobiles, the telephone, electric lighting, and world war needed new modes of expression.  "The century of the aeroplane deserves its music", wrote Debussy.  

The chamber music experience

Players of chamber music, both amateur and professional, attest to a unique enchantment with playing in ensemble.  "It is not an exaggeration to say that there opened out before me an enchanted world", writes Walter Willson Cobbett, devoted amateur musician and editor of Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music.  

Ensembles develop a close intimacy of shared musical experience.  "It is on the concert stage where the moments of true intimacy occur", writes Steinhardt.  "When a performance is in progress, all four of us together enter a zone of magic somewhere between our music stands and become a conduit, messenger, and missionary...  It is an experience too personal to talk about and yet it colors every aspect of our relationship, every good-natured musical confrontation, all the professional gossip, the latest viola joke."

The playing of chamber music has been the inspiration for numerous books, both fiction and nonfiction.  An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, explores the life and love of the second violinist of a fictional quartet, the Maggiore.  Central to the story is the tensions and the intimacy developed between the four members of the quartet.  "A strange composite being we are [in performance], not ourselves any more, but the Maggiore, composed of so many disjunct parts: chairs, stands, music, bows, instruments, musicians...  The Rosendorf Quartet, by Nathan Shaham, describes the trials of a string quartet in Palestine, before the establishment of the state of Israel.  For the Love of It by Wayne Booth is a nonfictional account of the author's romance with cello playing and chamber music.  


Chamber music playing presents special problems of intonation.  The piano is tuned using equal temperament, that is, the 12 notes of the scale are spaced exactly equally.  This method makes it possible for the piano to play in any key; however, all the intervals except the octave sound very slightly out of tune.  String players can play with just intonation, that is, they can play specific intervals (such as fifths) exactly in tune.  Moreover, string and wind players can use expressive intonation, changing the pitch of a note to create a musical or dramatic effect.  "String intonation is more expressive and sensitive than equal-tempered piano intonation."

However, using true and expressive intonation requires careful coordination with the other players, especially when a piece is going through harmonic modulations.  "The difficulty in string quartet intonation is to determine the degree of freedom you have at any given moment".  The Chamber Project for Clarinet & Piano with a French Flair and will be sensitive to the maximum capabilities of extreme colors, shadings and textures with extraordinary beauty and clarity for everyone to experience.  

The music of France reflects a diverse array of styles.  In the field of classical music, France has produced several prominent romantic composers, while folk and popular music have seen the rise of the chanson and cabaret style.  The earliest known sound recording device in the world, the phonautograph, was patented in France by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in 1857.  France is also the 5th largest market by value in the world, and its music industry has produced many internationally renowned artists.

Welcome to the Chamber Project – Matthew Hanna & Christopher Tavernier

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