Sextets, septets, octets, nonets.
May 9, 2018 1:12 AM   Subscribe

Stepping beyond the more familiar three-, four- and five-piece line-ups, there is a wealth of classical music out there composed for slightly bigger bands. And, while little of it has crossed over into popular culture (the opening movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1825 Octet is probably as well-known as any), there is nevertheless plenty to enjoy, a small selection of which can be found via the links within...

Notes: A string sextet comprises two violins, two violas and two cellos. Add two more violins and you have the standard string octet line-up. The nonets above (unless stated otherwise) are for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, & double bass. ¶ All links in the list above are to YouTube videos of recordings or performances of instrumental music. ¶ Women composers seem to have been particularly poorly represented in this repertoire until the last couple of decades, for which also see Unsuk Chin, Tansy Davis, Fjolá Evans, Missy Mazzoli & Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others.
posted by misteraitch (11 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Recently, I have been less and less interested in the large-orchestra repertoire and more and more drawn to small ensembles. So this is a treasure trove for me. Thanks for posting it, misteraitch! I am curious, by the way, if you (or any one else) can suggest any classical music genre in which women composers have had a significant presence before the last 50 years or so.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 5:57 AM on May 9, 2018

ALeaflikeStructure : my not-that-well-educated guess is that there's probably a greater quantity and variety of solo piano music by women than anything else, with accompanied songs, and other duos & trios being the next-best bets.
posted by misteraitch at 6:09 AM on May 9, 2018

This is awesome, thanks for putting this together!

ALeaflikeStructure: our local college radio station hosts a weekly show called "Music of our Mothers" that features exclusively the work of female composers. You might want to email the host, Ellen Grolman. If anybody could answer your question, she could!
posted by saladin at 6:15 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ooh, nice! I've enjoyed the other FPPs in this series as well, so I certainly need to give this a thorough listen.
posted by Harald74 at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2018

Thanks, misteraitch and saladin. My first thought was also solo piano music; my second thought was that Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn do not a trend make. But my third thought is that they are only the ones I know of; there must be more. So I will be following up with Ellen Grolman.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 8:49 AM on May 9, 2018

This is wonderful! The Brahms sextet and the Poulenc wind one are long-time favorites, but there's a lot I don't know and am looking forward to listening to.
(It took me quite a long time to figure out why my browser at work refused to display this post...)
posted by huimangm at 8:51 AM on May 9, 2018

aleaflikestructure -- if you want something other than piano/chamber compositions, Amy Beach's orchestral music? Lili Boulanger's choral works? I don't know many obscure composers so I can only offer the really famous names, but those are two of them.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:19 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks, queenofbithynia. Any mention of Amy Beach makes me happy, because I remember the moment when, after years of hearing the music of "Mrs. H.A.L. Beach" on Minnesota Public Radio, a piece by Amy Beach was played. It took me a moment to put the two names together, but then I experienced a wonderful sense of joy that she finally had her own name back.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2018

Beethoven's 'Septet' is alright, but in your rush to the splurgy groupings, DON'T overlook (and it's easy to do) the amazing Trio in C Op.87 for Two oboes and English horn.
posted by Twang at 6:16 PM on May 9, 2018

I also really like Brahms's string sextet! It was among my AP music theory class's practice test recordings. That was the best class to test prep for.

I just found out about this, but Music Theory Examples by Women is a trove of women composers beyond Clara and Fanny, as well as having fun, well-typeset examples of whatever theoretical phenomenon you want to visit today.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:40 PM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is wonderful, thanks misteraitch. A few more: Gordon Jacob, suite for eight violas (1975)

Benjamin Dale, Introduction and Andante for six violas (1911)

Shostakovich, Two pieces for string octet (1925)

Richard Strauss, Metamorphosen (string septet version) (1944)
posted by altolinguistic at 4:52 AM on May 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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