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 Favourites, Gifts for... Chamber and Instrumental Music enthusiasts

Our latest gift guide offers ideas to excite your chamber music-loving family and friends. From the latest string quartet, piano trio and instrumental recordings and box sets, to books about Beethoven, brass instruments and Stradivarius, we've selected some perfect presents for them to enjoy.

Selected 2018 Releases

Our Recording of the Week when it was released in August, this is Yo-Yo Ma's third (and, he insists, final) recording of Bach's Cello Suites. As Katherine says in her review, 'there’s an overwhelming sense of freedom to his playing here, both in terms of phrasing and even the basic sonorities themselves'. Essential listening for devotees of Ma's older recordings as well as for anyone eager to experience Bach's masterpiece in all their infinite variety.

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Hilary Hahn (violin)

Twenty years after tackling two of Bach’s three partitas and his third (C minor) sonata for unaccompanied violin on her debut solo album at the tender age of 17, Hahn returns to finish the job with this recording of the Sonata No. 1 in G minor, the Sonata No. 2 in A minor, and the first Partita in B minor. 'This is quite simply magnificent violin-playing, the sort that while you’re listening to it convinces you that the music couldn’t possibly be played any other way...I adored it' (Gramophone).

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Steven Isserlis (cello) & Dénes Várjon (piano)

The British cellist tackles two nineteenth-century sonatas for the first time on record, with Dénes Várjon performing on an Érard piano dating from around the time of the Chopin sonata’s composition. The programme also includes a nocturne by Auguste Franchomme (who edited Chopin’s Sonata), Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise brillante, and Isserlis’s own transcriptions of his 'Nie Ma Czego Trzeba' and Schubert’s 'Nacht und Träume'.

Available Format: CD

With one exception, the Jerusalem Quartet maintain the same personnel today as they did when they made their debut over twenty years ago. This consistency and familiarity brings an extraordinary confidence and rapport to their performances, qualities that are evident in abundance in this recording of the String Quartets by Debussy and Ravel. Their control over dynamics, attack, and articulation allows for a highly impressive reading of both pieces, not least in terms of the hushed beauty of their performance of quieter passages.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Isabelle Faust (violin), Alexander Melnikov (piano), Tanguy de Williencourt (piano), Magali Mosnier (flute), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Javier Perianes (piano)

Another gem in Harmonia Mundi's Debussy Centenary Edition is this recital focusing on the handful of chamber works Debussy composed during the First World War: the Cello Sonata, the Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, and the Violin Sonata. Stylishly performed by Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras and friends, this album yields some real benchmark performances (as does the rest of the series).

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Polina Leschenko (piano)

Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja is known for her thoughtful, distinctive interpretations in which she puts a fresh spin on familiar repertoire. This album presents violin sonatas by Poulenc and Bartók alongside Ravel’s Tzigane. True to form, her accounts of all of these works are full of insightful musicianship and dazzling pyrotechnics. Polina Leschenko proves to be the ideal performance partner, conquering the many technical challenges with great virtuosity.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Hans Gál’s 1925 Piano Trio receives expansive, ardent advocacy from the newly-formed Briggs Trio; the open-hearted lyricism, lush harmonies and sweeping melodies are reminiscent of Korngold and Rachmaninov in places. 'The Briggs Trio responds to the style with enormous affection, following the mood changes from passionate to witty with eagle ears, and it sounds as if they have been living with the music for a long time.' (Gramophone)

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Trio Wanderer

Their first volume of Haydn Trios (released in 2009) was praised by Gramophone for its ‘flair and imagination’; here the Trio Wanderer tackles trios nos. 27, 32, 35, 40 and 41. These beautifully played performances of five late Haydn trios combine substance and charm.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Daniel Barenboim (piano), Michael Barenboim (violin), Yiulia Deyneka (viola) & Kian Soltani (cello)

Characterful, congenial performances from Barenboim and three alumni of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (including his violinist son, Michael) – the tuttis have a big-boned, near-orchestral quality, but there’s no lack of delicacy when required. The pianist is very much Master of Ceremonies in the concerto-like opening of the G minor Quartet, but knows exactly when to take the spotlight and when to recede.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)

The final volume of an enthralling series which has won accolades galore for Ibragimova and Tiberghien’s ‘exquisite playing’ (The Observer), ‘charm and character’ (Gramophone) and ‘intelligence of interpretation’ (MusicWeb International). We can't wait to see where this match made in heaven will go next...

Available Format: 2 CDs

Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)

An exclusive bundle bringing together all five volumes of Ibragimova and Tiberghien's outstanding Mozart violin sonatas series in a specially priced collection.

Available Format: 10 CDs

Isabelle Faust, Anne Katharina Schreiber, Danusha Waskiewicz, Kristin von der Goltz, Lorenzo Coppola, Javier Zafra, Teunis van der Zwart, James Munro

Using period instruments, Faust and seven colleagues tackle the hour-long quasi-symphonic octet which Schubert composed in 1824 at the behest of amateur clarinettist Count Ferdinand Troyer. Two of the D89 Minuets with Trios (D89), arranged for octet, make a delightful postscript.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

For his second solo album on Delphian, the young Scottish guitarist (who won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award earlier this year) juxtaposes lute music from the Wemyss, Rowallan and Straloch manuscripts with works by James MacMillan, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, and Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, all in his own arrangements.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Collections and Box Sets

Alban Berg Quartett, Alfred Brendel

A 7-CD collection including the Prussian, Dissonance and Hoffmeister quartets, in performances described by Gramophone as ‘exceptionally intimate and refined’; Alfred Brendel joins for the Piano Quartet K493 and a chamber arrangement of Piano Concerto No. 12.

Available Formats: 7 CDs, MP3, FLAC

The Borodins have a uniquely close relationship with Shostakovich’s quartets (their original line-up frequently consulted and performed with the composer, and both current violinists had direct contact with him towards the end of his life); this set also includes the Preludes from Podrugi, the Piano Quintet (with Alexei Volodin), and the Elegy & Polka Op. 36a.

Available Formats: 7 CDs, MP3, FLAC

Books about Chamber Music

A Player's Guide to Chamber Music offers advice on what chamber music is available, and helps players to identify what is suitable for them (and their ensemble) to play. It covers music from the seventeenth to the later twentieth century and all instrumental combinations, including strings, piano, wind instruments, duet sonatas, and baroque ensembles. Difficulty ratings are provided, and the technical and musical aspects of playing are discussed; works suitable for less experienced players are also highlighted.

Available Format: Book

Using the history of both the Takács Quartet and Beethoven's quartets as the backbone to his story, Edward Dusinberre (first violinist of the Takács since 1993) recounts the exhilarating challenge of tackling Beethoven's sixteen string quartets. Beethoven for a Later Age takes the reader inside the daily life of a quartet, vividly depicting the necessary creative tension between individual and group expression, and how four people can enjoy making music together over a long period of time. Suitable for novices and chamber music enthusiasts alike, Dusinberre illuminates the variety and inherent contradictions of Beethoven's quartets, and shows that engaging with this radical music continues to be as invigorating now as it was for its first performers and audiences.

Available Format: Book

This Companion offers a concise and authoritative survey of the string quartet by eleven chamber music specialists. It provides coverage of a stimulating range of perspectives across four main areas: the social and musical background to the quartet's development; the most celebrated ensembles; string quartet playing, including aspects of contemporary and historical performing practice; and the mainstream repertory. Written for all string quartet enthusiasts, this guide will enrich readers' understanding and enhance their experience of listening to and performing string quartets.

Available Format: Book

A sweeping narrative of the greatest craftsman that ever lived and what became of the instruments he made. In this popular account of the Stradivari phenomena, Toby Faber explores the life and methods of this unsurpassed craftsman. Following the life of his instruments as they pass through the hands of many of the greatest musicians that have ever lived, we learn how and why they have become objects of such veneration and desire. A dramatic tale of grand artistry, fantastic music, shady dealers, forgery and science.

Available Format: Book

A founder member and pianist with both the Domus and Florestan Trios, Susan Tomes performing life has been centred on chamber music. This book combines a series of diaries describing her travels and performances with a collection of thought-provoking essays about teachers, making records, practising and rehearsing, and the particular challenges of being a concert pianist.This book 'gives you an intensely illuminating picture of the life of a pianist' (James Jolly, Gramophone).

Available Format: Book

Edited by Trevor Herbert, Arnold Myers and John Wallace

Some thirty-two experts from fifteen countries join three of the world's leading authorities on the design, manufacture, performance and history of brass instruments in this first major encyclopaedia on the subject. The encyclopaedia spans the entire period from antiquity to modern times, with new and unfamiliar material that takes advantage of the latest research, and gives attention to every brass instrument and their role in classical music, jazz, popular music, and brass and military bands. The definitive guide for students, academics, musicians and music lovers.

Available Format: Book

Simon Croft & Andy Taylor

Catering for trumpet, trombone, tuba, horn and cornet players, the Brass Instrument Manual presents a unique step-by-step guide with detailed illustrations showing how to maintain and repair your instrument like a professional technician. It also explains how your instrument works - what the valves do and what happens to the air - as well as the effects of different components on sound, tone and playing style. A valuable guide to caring for and understanding your brass instrument.

Available Format: Book

Notes for Performers

These books offer single-source reference guides for flute players and clarinetists, with essential historical and analytical information about some of the major works written for each instrument. With contextual and theoretical insights, this extra information will enhance performance and assist in preparing and presenting concerts and recitals. Indispensable guides for teachers as well as student, professional and amateur performers.

Explore the full series >>

Sheet Music for Chamber Music Enthusiasts

7 Volumes in a Slip Case

This box set brings together seven study score volumes of Henle Verlag's renowned editions of Beethoven's complete string quartets. Based on the Complete Beethoven Edition, these scores take into account the complex sources of the quartets, and the volumes are accompanied by detailed texts.

Available Format: Sheet Music