What’s your favourite chamber work?

We share our favourite chamber works


We're putting together a festival celebrating chamber music with Kings Place, London and we need your help! The centrepiece of the festival will be the 50 greatest chamber works – as voted by you. 

Find out more about the festival and how to vote here. Once you've voted you'll be entered into a prize draw to win a trip on Eurostar, a night in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and other great prizes.

In the meantime, the BBC Music Magazine team give their twopennyworth about the chamber works which make them sit up and listen. Here are our favourites…

Rebecca Franks, reviews editor
The first violin might argue that Mendelssohn’s Octet is more of a concerto than a chamber piece… but then, there are quite a lot of notes for everyone else too. Whether you’re listening to or playing the Octet, it’s hard not to be swept up by its warm, open-hearted energy, or to be moved by its moments of tender simplicity. Surely this phenomenal work – a masterpiece by any composer's standards, let alone a teenage one – would have to be taken to a desert island?


Oliver Condy, editor
The arrangement of JS Bach’s Art of Fugue for string quartet highlights the composer's incredible counterpoint. I’d heard Bach’s Preludes and Fugues in arrangements for string quartet by Mozart, which led me to this version of one of his final masterpieces. No one really knows whether the Art of Fugue was written specifically for the keyboard; all we really know is that it was a work that got Bach thinking about the fugue in all its forms, taking it to its limits. Hearing the work arranged for string quartet sets it free, in my view.

Alice Pearson, cover CD editor
I find it impossible to choose a favourite piece from the rich and varied chamber music repertoire. However, I think the String Quintet in C, D.956, Schubert's last work composed a few months before he died, is a sublime piece. Acknowledged as one of the high points of the chamber repertoire, it certainly is for me. I first heard it when I was feeling uninspired with studying for exams and the beautiful second theme of the first movement immediately transported me into another world. The exquisite combination of melody and dialogue between instruments in the Quintet is at times, I think, unsurpassed.


Jeremy Pound, deputy editor
It was on an idyllic evening at the Bledington Festival in Gloucestershire that I found myself charmed by Bax’s First String Quartet. OK, so it may not leave one emotionally shattered like Schubert’s Death and the Maiden or thrill with the virtuosic fireworks of, say, Shostakovich at his most impassioned, but its three movements combine a wonderful lightness of spirit with gorgeous lyricism – not least when, in the Third, a lively Russian-sounding dance gives way to a haunting Irish-style folk tune. Did Bax write that tune himself, as he claimed, or was it already in existence, as others reckon? We will probably never know…


Elizabeth Davis, editorial assistant
When it comes to chamber music, I tend to the view that you can’t go wrong with Beethoven. Every piece he wrote for small ensemble – from the delightful Spring Violin Sonata to the Septet in E flat – provides moments of elation, wit and profundity. But if I had to choose a current favourite from his work, I’d plump for the String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 with the Grosse Fuge (Op. 133). I recently heard the work live and was reminded of its playfulness and seemingly endless invention.

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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