Monday, 29 June 2015


If asked what they love playing the most, chances are that a significant proportion of classical musicians would answer: chamber music! I have always found chamber music a bit of a funny word - it somehow suggests a very small format and perhaps a slightly limited scale of expression which certainly isn't true at all - but I definitely count myself among those musicians who love and crave it.

What we tend to mean when we talk of chamber music is music written for a small number of players, let's say fewer than ten and typically three or four. This format has implications on how we work with this music, where it gets and can get performed; because of the small amount of musicians required to perform this music, the musical material is usually very equally distributed among the different parts, and in rehearsal everyone can have their say and influence the end result which we then present in a concert. This is an approach which would be completely impractical in an orchestra (which is one of the reasons you need a conductor) and in a solo work... well, there is not really anyone to discuss musical points with, is there? Also, because of the small number of players required, chamber music concerts can be done in smaller places and therefore nearer the audience.

As musicians we tend to love bouncing off our respective musical initiatives; you hear the person next to you play a phrase with a certain inflection and when you have it a few bars later you pick up that inflection, or you do something that is a complete contrast to name two out of a thousand options. In the best chamber music performances these things happen spontaneously, at the spur of the moment, and when it happens that way, trust me you are in heaven. And with an audience close up, you can sense that they like this a lot too. Add to this that most of the greatest composers have poured their soul out and composed some of their best works in the chamber music format. Am I getting my point across...?

As I write this I have just come home from the Saxå Chamber Music Festival in the west of Sweden, where I played my last three concerts for the 2014/2015 season. It has been an extremely rewarding year, where I have been lucky enough to play a large variety of music in some remarkable places around Europe and with some genuinely remarkable colleagues! Four weeks of much needed (and dare I say, well deserved) holiday lies ahead. If I love chamber music, I would say I love chamber music festivals even more, and Saxå certainly was no exception - it was a riot! Set in the spectacular setting of Saxå manor, where most concerts are held and where all musicians stay during the week, this festival has an additional attraction for me: there is a link with gastronomy grâce à the legendary Carl Jan Granqvist, who hosts the entire festival. Below is a picture of me together with Johannes Rostamo and Joakim Svenheden, gagging to go on stage and play Mendelssohn's D minor Trio in the final concert of the festival, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Hooray!

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