Music in the Making

Eight Is A Magic Number!

This week, we’re listening to two very different octets from the Shepherd and Moores Schools of Music.

On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we’re talking about the power of eight instruments, featuring both wind and string octets from the 20th century.

Dover Quartet sitting for coffee in Manhattan
Dover Quartet, featured in the Enescu Octet performance

Music in this episode:

Stravinsky – Octet for Wind Instruments (1923)
Faculty and Friends of the Moores School of Music
Moores Opera House
3/31/2015

Our first selection tonight is one of the earliest works from Stravinsky’s neoclassical period. The octet features a rare example of Stravinsky’s use of sonata form, a parody of a Mozart concerto, and the imitation of a baroque fugue subject. While modern listeners view this as proof of Stravinsky’s genius, Copland negatively reviewed this particular piece as “a mess of 18th century mannerisms” after it’s premiere.

Enescu – Octet for Strings in C Major, Op. 7 (1900)
Faculty of the Shepherd School of Music; Dover String Quartet
Duncan Recital Hall
2/18/2013

Our next selection is an octet of a different kind — a string octet. Although it is often compared to Mendelssohn’s string octet, Enescu’s offers something different; an equal balance and importance of all eight voices, as opposed to Mendelssohn’s use of a solo violinist and seven accompanists. Enescu found writing for this work especially difficult, waiting nearly two years to complete it. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the number of instruments involved or the overall length of the work, almost 40 minutes in total. Regardless, string players still regard that his string octet is not for the faint of heart.

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