Chamber Music Pedagogy

Chamber music and the development of a musician

It is impossible to overestimate the utility of studying chamber music in the shaping of a young musician. Ensemble playing improves practice techniques, performance skills and many other skills and characteristics essential for musicians. It is much easier to explore different approaches – by trial and error if need be – in a group than if working on one’s own. And although practicing parts and making music together takes a lot of time, exactly the same issues may be encountered in chamber music as in solo repertoire. For instance, the piano parts in the piano trios of Schubert or Beethoven are scarcely any simpler or less challenging to learn than the solo piano works of the same composers.

Aspects of assessing chamber music

One can say that chamber music coaching is very similar to teaching a solo instrument. They both involve listening to the same things: intonation, rhythm, sound production on the instrument, fingerings, bowings, and so on.

Even the very concept of chamber music is not so different from solo works or orchestral works. Considered from a broad point of view, everything is chamber music, from the solo pieces of Bach to the huge symphonies of Mahler.

But assessing a chamber music performance is very different from assessing a solo performance. One should not assess only the performance generally but also how the members of the ensemble handle their respective roles in the ensemble. This places particular demands on the person doing the assessing, as one has to understand the psychology of chamber music and the dynamics of different ensembles, and also the roles of members in a group.