Some people experience chamber music in elevators. Others hear it on NPR. But for students just a short walk away from the Yale School of Music, chamber music can be a live experience.
As a staple of on-campus performances, chamber music — which is produced by a small ensemble without a director — enriches University culture and provides musicians with confidence and ear training, said Jesse Levine, a professor of viola. The Yale Chamber Music Society will host the Chicago-based Jupiter Trio this evening in the society’s first chamber music concert of 2007.
“Taking the responsibility of being an individual contributing to the whole in chamber music is a great challenge which most musicians meet with both joy and seriousness,” Levine said in an e-mail. “Playing the chamber music of any of the great masters of composition of the past and present is a civilizing experience, and the more we engage in it the better.”
Deputy School of Music Dean Thomas Masse said Yale has a great reputation, both in the School of Music and the Department of Music, for providing students with opportunities for chamber ensembles.
“So many great chamber music groups had a foundation at Yale,” he said. “There is an emphasis the faculty have on this aspect of music. I think that is why the tradition has been so strong here.”
Cari Carson ’08, who performs in the Saybrook College Orchestra and who used to preform in a three-person ensemble, said chamber music is well supported on campus, but she would actually like to see more resources dedicated to other types of ensembles.
“I would love to see more support for larger groups,” she said.
Performing chamber music is an entirely different experience from performing in another type of group, Levine said. Unlike larger ensembles, chamber music requires no conductor, and is therefore a self-directed experience in which the individual musician determines his or her contribution, she said.
School of Music professor Joan Panetti said the social lessons learned through performing in a chamber ensemble are also important.
“Each performer has his or her equally valid ideas about musical interpretation,” Panetti said in an e-mail. “Performers constantly share ideas and work together to become a musical unit. This is a large challenge.”
Many professors also stressed the importance of participating in a chamber ensemble to improve students’ solo performance skills. Violin professor Ani Kavafian said all soloists should have chamber performance experience to help with ear training and with interpersonal relations.
“It’s a discipline,” Kavafian said. “Chamber music and learning to deal with other peoples’ attitudes make each performer a different human being.”
Levine said the opportunity to share the spotlight in a smaller group also assists musicians with their solo performance.
“The experience offers the player the opportunity to play as an individual, so [it is] different than when playing with a large ensemble,” he said. “The player, if a string player, for example, is truly heard individually by the listener when playing chamber music rather than having their playing swallowed up by the large string section of which they are a part.”
Featuring a violin, a cello and a piano, the Jupiter Trio’s program will consist of piano trios by Beethoven (Trio in E-flat, op. 11), YSM faculty composer Martin Bresnick (his Trio from 1988), and Dvorák (Trio in F minor, op. 65). The concert will begin at 8 p.m. in Morse Recital Hall. International Sejong Soloists with mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer will follow on Feb. 27, while the final concert of the season will feature the winners of the Yale School of Music Chamber Music Competition on May 1.