Beautiful Classical Smaller Pieces, duo,trio,etc

Lets put together a list of beauty. Woodwinds, flute, harp, guitar, octets, quintets, quartets. They are unsung genius.
Intimate, thoughtful, considered.
I like "The Complete Mozart Divertimentos" NY Philomusica records, Disk 2.
I was driving home late, after a brutal day at work, and heard a track on the radio.
It was so beautiful and otherworldly that I felt like time stopped and I was dreaming.
The mendhelson octet!
All of the Baroque titles on the Harmonia Mundi label, if you find period instruments "beautiful".
The Mozart Flute/Harp Concerto. Mozart clarinet concerto. Mozart also wrote a lot of chamber music for winds. I have always been struck by how beautiful and ingenious Mozart's writing for winds is. His Grand Partita is one of his most famous works for winds. In this piece he uses the Bassett Horn. Its timbre is similar to the clarinet's, but darker and has an extended lower range.

Beethoven's string quartets. Bartok's string quartets. Mozart's string quintets. Brahms string sextets are things of beauty.
A number of critics and many classical music aficionados consider Schubert's String Quintet, Op. 163, D. 956, also known as his Cello Quintet, to be the greatest piece of chamber music ever written. It's certainly among the greatest IMO.

Also, if a solo piano work is considered to be within the category that is being asked about, I would suggest Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 58.

-- Al
Great thread Idea. Many worthwhile suggestions are/will come out of this.
With my own ears I heard the great pianist,Arthur Rubenstein, say the Schubert Op 163 Quintet is the greatest piece ever written and that he wanted it played at his funeral.

My own personal favorite piece, period, is the Brahms Op 78 Violin Sonata in G major.
My favorite recording of same is the Josef Suk/Julius Katchen ,Decca 466 393-2 .
The Brahms Clarinet Quintet should be added to the list.
Schubert's Cello Quintet of course.

Of the top of my head;
Brahms Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36 (Sextet for Strings)
Beethoven's String Trios
The four albums in the Miracle series from featuring Aage Kvalbein on Cello are magnificent. Two of them are also available on vinyl Itallian and Spanish Miracles. Highly recommended and available at search Kvalbein

Good listening

Neo classical quartets:

Tango: Quintet Buenos Aries
The Julian (Bream) and John (Williams) guitar duo albums are great (Assad Bros. duo also excellent).
Violin/Piano: I like the Prokofiev Sonata #2 (originally flute) and the Saint-Saens Sonata #1.
String Quartets: Debussy or Ravel (Guarneri has a fairly recent high-quality LP of the Ravel w/two movements per side).
String Quintet: Schubert Quintet in C--give me heaven before I die
Excellent chamber music performances in superb sound - some specific recommendations among many more:

Yarlung 95990-787V - Petteri Iivonen, violin, and Kevin Fitz-Gerald, piano: Music of Ysaye, Debussy, Bach and Lefkowitz - Available from:

Yarlung 09261-819V - Ciaramella: Dances On Movable Ground - Renaissance & Baroque dance tunes - Available from:

Philips 835393/4 AY - Schubert Piano Trios, Beaux Arts Trio

Philips 4769648 - Rossini Sonate a Quattro: Nos. 1-6, Accardo, S.Gazeau, A.Meunier, F.Petracchi

Hyperion A66171/A66172/A66173 - The Chamber Music of Malcolm Arnold, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 - Nash Ensemble
Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time"), violin, cello, clarinet, piano
(1940–41) Olivier Messiaen
As Tostadosunidos said above, the John Williams, Julian Bream double album is great and one of my favorites in my entire collection. Beautiful guitar work by two masters of the instrument. Its a live recording on RCA and it puts you right in the recording venue. As your system improves, so does this wondrous recording. Here's what you'd be looking for:

Happy listening ...
Lots of good suggestions above. I am in agreement that the Schubert D. 956 Quintet is one of the truly great works in the chamber genre (the second movement is devastatingly sad and beautiful).

All of the Beethoven quartets, particularly the "late" quartets are also in the "must have" group. All of his other chamber works are terrific. I particularly like his Violin and Piano sonatas (e.g., "Spring" and "Kreutzer").

All of the Haydn quartets are essential too (check out "Hunt" as an example). Ditto for Mozart (check out "Dissonant" for something somewhat strange for this composer).

For something unabashedly romantic, Rachmaninov's Sonata for Cello and Piano is a nice treat.

Now on to more "modern" stuff that is still quite approachable.

One of my all-time favorite pieces is Shostakovich's Piano Trio no. 2. The Beaux Art Trio version is particularly nice, but hard to find except in box collections.

I am also a big fan of the chamber works of mid twentieth century British composers: check out the quartets of Britten, Vaughn Williams, Alwyn and Tippett.

For American works, check out Amy Beach's chamber works.

I like a compilation CD called "Music is Confession" which features the works of Schulhoff, Ullmann, Busch and Kaminski (composers silenced by the Holocaust).

Some of the more modern sounding composers that I like might be a bit less approachable, but, I bet most listeners could appreciate the chamber works of composers like Schnittke and Berg.
The Bartok Quartets are masterworks as well.
Another modern composer who wrote some seldom heard, but beautiful quartets was Villa-Lobos .
YES, the Villa-Lobos quartets are beautiful and there are a lot of them. Brilliant had a really nice and cheap box set for the complete quartets.
Schubert, nice to hear of Villa-Lobos. I met a high-rise window washer,Cullen, at a record swap who introduced me to him and others. Cullen has passed; my joy remains. I think Villa-Lobos will live on.
Larryi, we are so lucky for Brilliant. They provided some wonderful values in big sets. I have a number and would buy more. I was astounded by their value to provide significant overviews of composers at truly nominal cost.
Isochronism, thank you. I feel many artists most intimate,personality revealing works are in these delights. Who'd have guessed about Beethoven quiet genius, humor and playfulness from his "grand" efforts.
Larryi, just read your 6-11 post. Not only do I agree about Schuberts D. 956; I feel just the opening bars are worth the price of admission. As I write I am listening to the effort by the State Borodin Quintet and am too entranced to write more. I am reaching for my brandy as we speak...Cheers to all who feel these enormous musical contributions- and a huge thanks to all who have posted ^<. Pete
Shostakovich string qt. #8--powerful stuff with some moments of beauty, albeit ominous
Well. IMO the daddy of them all from a modern composer, is String Qt. # 2, Intimate Letters" by the great Czech Leos Janacek .

Janacek #2 IS a terrific modern piece, and # 1 (Kreutzer) is worth mentioning too.

For modern American I would add Carter's Quartet #3 and Ives #2.

For another "modern" composer, but, composing more in a late romantic style, Schoenberg's "Verklarte Nacht" is a basic item.

I know this is intended to be a basic list, but, can we add mention of obscure or odd-ball items that are worth tracking down? In that context I would throw in Somei Sato's "Birds in Warped Time II."
I thought surely someone would of mentioned it by now, but as nobody has, I'll mention a work that belongs in all collections .

Carl Nielsen's Op. 43 Wind Quintet , up there in Mozart winds league with modernistic melody structure .

Vienna Quintet on Nimbus is good .
Borodin String Quartet No.2
Dvorak String Quartet No.12 "American"
Debussy String Quartet
Ravel String Quartet
Brahms Sextet No.2
Brahms Clarinet Quintet
Brahms Piano Quintet, op.34
+1 Borodin Quartet #2
Schubert Quartet #14 D810 The Andante movement starts out as a death march and changes to different expressive moving moods throughout, the 2nd a lilting sweet violin expressing something lighter, and more hopeful maybe, I've always wondered. Usually a movement stays within a certain context or mood but this one does not, it is really brilliant, never heard anything quite like it as it is so completely unpredictable. Wonder what he was thinking when he wrote it? This piece had such a profound impact on me when I first heard it that doesn't diminish on subsequent listening.

Think about it Tubegroover, Schubert had written more now acknowledged masterworks by his death at 31 than Beethoven or almost any other composer had by that age.
No less a figure than Brahms, who may well have been the most learned of all composers, with the music of 400 years at his fingertips, said Schubert was the greatest composer who ever lived.
Well Schubert I'm not one for deciding good, better or best of anything, it's more a parlor game than anything BUT Schubert's string quartets are so very special as a genre of music by a single composer that, to me at least, as a body of work they have such a unique special character that can't be decribed or put into words, just an amazing accomplishment for a single human being. His deep sensitivity is keenly projected in his music. He isn't alone but he certainly is quite special in his own unique way. If Brahms say he isn, well I sure wouldn't argue with that!
The other make changes and develop themes.
Schubert comes at you from 20 directions at once and they are all related .
Many great suggestions. Glad to see mention of the Nielsen Quintet and of
Janacek, one of my favorite composers. Janacek's "Mladi"
(Youth) for wind sextet is a gem and highly recommended. Schubert's
"The Shepherd On The Rock" for soprano, clarinet and piano is
one of my favorite chamber works; as is his "Octet" for winds
and strings. Poulenc's "Sextet" for piano and winds is fantastic.
Prokofiev's "Sonata" for flute and piano. In a more modern
vein (beauty is in the eye/ear of the beholder):

Ligeti, "Ten Pieces" for wind quintet.
Elliot Carter, "Sonata" for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord.
John Adams, "Road Movies" for violin and piano.
Frogman, re Janacek, on hope you've played him or looked at scores.
I keep trying to spread the gospel on Leos but folk find him too "dissonant" .
I hear him as the epitome of that old-time Czech tonality
, as far as my amateur ear can tell he writes at both extremes of the staff and through fabulous technique makes the whole seem right down the middle. To me he is sui generis exemplified , ever fascinating . A true musical genius !
Schubert, I have been privileged to play several of Janacek's works over the years; most recently "Sinfonietta". "Mladi" was a staple of my woodwind quintet's repertory; with the addition of the bass clarinet, of course. Janacek was one of the most individualistic composers in all of music and while his music is, as you point out, dissonant it always remained tonal and rooted in Romanticism and the folk music of his native Chekoslovakia and of Russia. For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of his music is that he is sometimes referred to as the first Minimalist composer with the use of short repetitive or recurring motifs throughout a composition. Truly a musical giant.
The one that always stuns the crowd is Gary Karr - Adagio d'Albinoni, a duo recording of acoustic bass with organ accompaniment. The King LP is particularly great sounding. Cheers,
Frogman I so appreciate your contributions from a players perspective. I like learning from your different level of concentration,sensitivity and appreciation. Peter
Frogman, I'm presently enjoying the exquisite tension in the opening movement of Mendelssohns' Octet Op. 20 played by Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields with Neville Marriner,Hugh Maquire,Ilona Brown recorded in 1968 ! (I'm playing the Decca 96khz - 24 bit remastered CD 475 7716 which does thee job for me). That Mendelssohn wrote this at 16 astounds me. The passion,intensity, and use of the double quartet at that age is for me a prime example of intense genius. Talk about "feeling it to the bone!"
Frogman, I am eternally in your debt.
"Miladi" was one of the pieces I had read about but never heard.
The version I found locally was by Ensemble Walter Boeykens on Harmonia Mundi . Both the group and work are of the highest order, reminding me of that master of masters in Janacek,Rudolf Firkunsy, playing "On an Overgrown Path" with even more color than a solo piano could.
I swear Janachek could give even Schubert lessons in dynamic graduation!

It took me several minutes to compose myself after "Miladi".
I would think it one of those pieces where a knowledgeable classical audience would pause before putting hands together?
Ptss, it is indeed remarkable than a youth of 16 could write
such a mature work at the Octet.
It is equally remarkable that Janacek could write such
a youthful work as "Miladi"(youth in Czech} at over 70
years of age .
I like the three string quartets by the Spanish composer Arriaga who did not make it out of his teens. I believe he was 16 years old when he wrote them.