By Tim Hazell
Eighteenth-century Europe witnessed unprecedented prosperity and a burgeoning middle class. The newly affluent attended opera houses, salons, and private homes to enjoy entertainments and music. Handel dominated the venues for opera and oratorio, but William Boyce, Joseph Gibbs, Michael Festing, and others were composing for small ensembles.
The Classical era and flowering of the Romantics changed the face of Western society. Europe saw revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, and harnessing of steam power. Frederic Chopin enlarged the repertoire for solo piano, expanding the instrument’s range, as well as its impact on modern music. Franz Schubert’s personality and style exemplified the Romantic ideal.
Later Expressionist composers such as Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith took chamber music into uncharted territory. Schoenberg moved from his early tonal works to the use of dissonance, insisting that this was simply a logical evolution. Minimalism was characterized by the absence of adornments, such as modulation, in pursuit of a stripped-down functionality.
Beat poetry during the 1950s paved the way for further experiments. Among contemporary projects, “Roots and Dreams” involved the talents of master percussionist Rubén Álavarez and poet David Hernández, a founding member of Chicago’s Latino Arts Movement. Music affected Hernández’s verse, as in “The Butterfly Effect,” where cause and effect freely move from one image to another.
If a butterfly flapping its wings in Beijing
could cause a hurricane off the coast of Florida,
so could a deck of cards shuffled at a picnic,
so could the clapping hands of a father
watching his son rounding the bases,
so could a tiny current from a turned page
slipping out the open window, nudging a passing breeze: an insignificant event that could snowball months later into a monsoon at a coastal village halfway around the world.
Trios and quartets provide the perfect medium for expressive sonic palettes. Compact size and close proximity to the audience bring eye contact and body language closer. An intimate concert of great ensemble playing elicits a chemistry that can only come from a synthesis of performer and spectator. Audiences and musicians are set adrift in private gardens of reverie.
Here is one of Mozart’s favorite recipes, revised for modern kitchens!
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, cubed
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
2 tbsp. paprika (available at Bonanza)
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add onion and brown slightly. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add chicken cubes and coat. Add garlic and tomato to the onion, and cook gently for five minutes. Add chicken cubes. Stir to combine with pan ingredients. Add chicken stock and simmer half an hour. Fold in sour cream or yogurt, paprika and cayenne. Serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or gnocchi and a green vegetable.