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 or information about additional chamber works, please contact the composer.


The following three works have dedicated pages on this website.
Click on an image to read program notes, etc:

Concerto for Organ

Septem Verba

Spaces of Night


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)

St Michael_Page_1Order 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. He saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand. He asked, “My boy, what are doing?” “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile. “But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” he said. The boy paused in his work, stood up, and 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.”

Marian Horvath, paraphrased

Order score and parts from Firehead Editions

Ghost Canyon Quartet

[string quartet]
An evocative and quiet chamber work which contemplates the mystical elements of heat, water, and wind, and their manner of presence in the desert climate. The composer’s program notes from the 2015 world premiere performance in Albuquerque are as follows:

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.

Frederick Frahm, 2015

ghost canyon Quartet PRINT_Page_1Order score and parts from Sheetmusicplus

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]

Grendel's Soliloquoy_Page_1Order score and parts from Firehead Editions

O Night

[flute & organ]
O Night was commissioned by Jared Isaac Aragon in the fall of 2016.

I took as an inspiration and starting point a poem by the late 20th century Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti titled ‘O Night’. It begins this way: “…Out of daybreak’s huge and restless hunger
Trees–like masts–revealed.

Anguished awakenings.
Leaves, sister leaves,
I hear your lament….”

The contrast between the mast-ly tress and the delicate lamenting leaves offered me a metaphor of sorts to work with in writing this music. I wanted both instruments to have their own space and though they are combined not to lose their character or identity. So, in the course of this piece, one or the other instrument has the full spotlight, and at other times they find each other in tandem and conversation.

The poem concludes:

Autumns,
Dying sweetnesses.
O youth,
Only just past now, the moment of detachment.
Unbridled surge.
And already I am desert.
Lost inside this curving sadness.
But night disperses distances.
Oceanic silences,
Astral nests of wishes.
O Night.

Giuseppe Ungaretti, 1919
Trans. Andrew Frisardi

Order score and parts from Firehead Editions

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.

Quarai Chapel str orch version_Page_1Order score and parts from Firehead Editions

Shadows in a Frame

[string orchestra]
Completed from older sketches after discovering a collection of charcoal drawings by French Symbolist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). This 20 minute work for string orchestra in three movements seeks to capture musically some of the emotions present in Odilon Redon’s ghostly sketches. There are three organ works so inspired, but made of entirely different music. The style of the music is somewhat tonal and minimal, bearing an obvious synchronicity with the works of Philip Glass. The harmonies move slowly and the use of ostinati serves to propel the music forward to ever increasing densities. The world premiere was performed by the Santa Fe Community Orchestra, Oliver Prezant conducting, on January 15, 2016 at the St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

La Mélancholie (Melancholy), portrays a moodiness that vacillates between melancholy and fleeting hope. L’Ange Tombé (Fallen Angel), a movement of more intensity, responds to a sense of agitation experienced by a seraphic entity who struggles with a self-imposed alienation. Fleur Étrange (Strange Flower), full of harmonic sighs and sweeping melodies, is at the start in a somewhat brighter mood. But the work is drawn inward for a moment into a fugal exposition over a pedal point with ascending minor-sixth intervals suggesting a heavy heart and sighs of sorrow. Eventually, a glimmer of hope concludes the piece in the radiance of a major chord.

As Redon put it himself,

My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined…

Order score and parts from the composer

Symphony no. 1

[full orchestra]
A 12 minute work in three movements 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

symphony no 1 revised 16 May_Page_1Order score and parts from Sheetmusicplus

Tudeley Windows

[clarinet & piano]
A cycle of 12 brief and austere pieces for solo clarinet and piano. Expressive, fragmentary, and poetic music. Inspired by the 12 Chagall windows that were installed in the 13th century parish church of All Saints, Tudeley near Tonbridge in Kent. The entire work runs about 14 minutes. The laconic nature of the movements suggest the intimate character of the this little country church, the brevity of life of Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid in whose memory the project was initiated, and the focused study of a given color within each of the windows. 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’.

Order score and parts from Firehead Editions