Chamber Music

chamber 4tet

Chamber music requires far more diligence and perfection than elsewhere…

–Johann Matheson

A selection of chamber music and works for larger ensembles by Frederick Frahm is featured on this page. For program notes, please contact the composer.

Archangels [trumpet & organ]
Composed in 2011, may be played as a set, or individually at the performer’s discretion. Total duration is circa 11 minutes. For the trumpeter, it is important that these pieces are less in the nature of a fanfare and more in the manner of a song or aria. Be expressive with the lines, make much use of legato playing, and allow tempi to be broad and unhurried.
Organ registrations are designed for a modest two manual instrument without pedal. For performances on instruments of larger specifications, the use of a broader palette of color is encouraged, including an ad libitum employment of the pedal division.

A version of the accompaniment for string orchestra is available on rental from the publisher.

St. Michael
…and at that time shall Michael stand up,
the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people:
and there shall be a time of trouble,
such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time:
and at that time thy people shall be delivered,
every one that shall be found written in the book. Daniel 12:1-3 (KJV)

St. Raphael
…for an angel went down at a certain season
into the pool called Bethesda,
and troubled the water:
whosoever then first stepped in,
after the troubling of the water,
was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. John 5:4 (KJV)

St. Gabriel
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked,
and behold a certain man clothed in linen,
whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl,
and his face as the appearance of lightning,
and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. Daniel 10:5-6 (KJV)

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Order score and part from Subito Music

Augustine and the Seashell [string trio & organ]

“…our hearts are restless till they find rest in You”

St. Augustine, Confessions

Around 400 AD, so the story goes, Saint Augustine was contemplating the Trinity. Having some difficulty putting his mind around the Biblical doctrine, he went out for a walk by the ocean. It was here he met a young boy who was using a seashell to scoop water from the ocean into a hole he had dug in the sand. When asked by Augustine what the boy was doing, the lad replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence[1].”

Beyond the story, this music was also inspired by a place:

I was visiting Italy in 2013, Susan, my wife, and I were on a trip celebrating our 25th anniversary. Our hosts took us on a road trip through Tuscany. We saw Lucca, Volterra, and ended up in San Gimigniano. It was here that I entered the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino (Church of St. Augustine). As I looked around the church in the afternoon light, I began hearing music in my head. I wrote the first 15 bars of the piece at that moment. I thought to myself, ‘this is the type of music that should be performed here.’ As I studied the piece, I found that it is broken up in 3’s and 5’s, holy numbers. We gave the premiere performance of the piece at St. Luke on Ash Wednesday, 2015.

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Order score and parts from Firehead Editions

Ghost Canyon Quartet [string quartet]

The music is inspired by a poem cycle of John Gould Fletcher written in 1934 in Santa Fe. The text contemplates the mystical elements of heat, water, and wind, and their manner of presence in the desert climate. Premiered at the Annual Concert of St. Luke on November 9, 2014 by the Chatter String Quartet led by David Felberg.

I Lento:
a dry desert heat,
a traveler chances upon an undiscovered canyon,
a play of sandstone and sage,
light and shadow,
there are glyphs on the walls,
and bleached bones in a wind hollowed nicho.

II Tranquillo:
a pool of water,
in a shallow basin,
clear, turquoise blue,
a few drops of water from somewhere above,
rain, or the remnants of a spring.

III Animato:
the wind is here,
not steady and driving,
but unpredictable and playful,
dusk, the heat retires,
puffy white clouds dance in front of the sun,
and a ghostly frolic of light chases through the canyon.

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Order score and parts from Sheetmusicplus

Cold Before Dawn [viola & piano]
A cycle of 12 brief and austere pieces for solo viola and piano. Inspired by the laconic translations of Japanese poetry by American poet Kenneth Rexroth, particularly “sky sea birds trees earth house beasts flowers“, these works are essentially songs without sung words. With slow tempi, mystical tonalities, and some of the composer’s most angular writing, this music lasts just 14 minutes in duration. An unusual work in the composer’s catalog in terms of its controlled dissonance, this music is deeply intimate and very much a study in ‘multum in parvo’.

Grendel’s Soliloquy [violin & organ]
Grendel’s Soliloquy, a concerto movement for violin and organ, existed in sketches for many years before completion in 2013. A first version of the score (2000) was for piano and viola solo. The final version, expanded and recast for violin and chamber orchestra, is available today using the composer’s transcription of the accompaniment for organ solo. The world premiere of this arrangement was performed on 26 January 2015 at St. George Anglican Church, Hanover Square, London, by Robin Walker (organ) and Philippa Mo (violin).

The music, in sonata-allegro form, took its inspiration from the 1971 novel by John Gardner. In Gardner’s text, Grendel, the beast in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, tells the story from his perspective.

At one point in the novel, Grendel philosophically considers the nature of the humans in the mead hall who hate and fear him–while he stills desire to eat them, he is intrigued by their humanity and is compelled by being witness to their accomplishments:

Balance is everything, riding out time like a helmless sheepboat, keel to hellward, mast upreared to prick out Heaven’s eye. …My enemies define themselves (as the dragon said) on me. As for myself, I could finish them off in a single night, pull down the great carved beams and crush them in the meadhall, along with their mice, their tankards and potatoes–yet I hold back. I am hardly blind to the absurdity. Form is function. What will we call the wrecker when all has been wrecked?…

John Gardner, Grendel [Alfred A. Knopf, 1971]

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Quarai Chapel [organ & strings]
A chamber work for organ and string quartet or orchestra. Inspired by the church ruin at El Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Cuarac (Quaraí) in the Salinas Pueblo Monuments in Northern New Mexico, this spare and moving work captures the austerity and grandeur of an edifice that has a rich and troubled history. In ABA form, the music runs about 6 minutes in duration. Premiered on Ash Wednesday 2008 in Albuquerque at the Church of St. Luke with the composer conducting, this piece has enjoyed numerous performances in the US for concert and liturgy.

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Order score and parts from Firehead Editions

Symphony no. 1 [full orchestra]
A 12″ in three movements work for orchestra inspired by a visit to Fort Union in Watrous, New Mexico. The old abandoned fort, once a bustling center of activity in the American Civil War era, is now an eerie camp of deteriorating adobe buildings surrounded be a vast plain and remnants of the Santa Fe trail. The world premiere was performed by the Santa Fe Community Orchestra, Oliver Prezant conducting, on December 12, 2015 at the St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The three movements are evocative of the encampment:

I. Con moto …a garrison was stationed here, full of industry and commotion

II. Tranquillo …an adobe fortress isolated on a vast prairie

III. Maestoso …in the silence, echoes of the outpost remain

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Order score and parts from Sheetmusicplus

The following works have dedicated pages on this website. Click on the title to read program notes, etc.

Concerto for Organ


Septem Verba for Violin & Organ


Spaces of Night (song cycle for voice, organ & strings)