Repertory Guides (ML 128, 1100)

Chamber Music Literature

Berger, Melvin. Guide to Chamber Music.

Celentano, John, and Creech Reynolds. A Catalogue of Contemporary American Chamber Music.

Cohn, Arthur. The Literature of Chamber Music.

Forsyth, Ella Marie. Building a Chamber Music Collection: A Descriptive Guide to Published Scores.

Gleason, Harold, and Warren Becker. Chamber Music from Haydn to Bartok. 2d ed.

Headington, Christopher. The Listener's Guide to Chamber Music.

Rangel-Ribeiro, Victor, and Robert Markel. Chamber Music: An International Guide to Works and Their Instrumentation.

Scott, William. A Conductor's Repertory of Chamber Music: Compositions for Nine to Fifteen Solo Instruments.

Berger, Melvin. Guide to Chamber Music. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc., 1985. Mus Ref ML 1100 .B45 1985

Use: As the preface indicates, this guide presents general information on famous chamber music. Oriented to music lovers and concertgoers - intended to enhance their understanding of chamber music on a general level.

Coverage: Contains information on 231 frequently played chamber works by 55 different composers. Attempts to cover all types of instrumental chamber music for string, winds, brass and piano. Selections are for 3 - 8 players. Includes as many significant contemporary composers as possible. (Stated in preface.)

Organization: Begins with table of contents, preface and acknowledgments. Organized alphabetically by composer. Each entry includes birth and death dates of the composer, a brief synopsis of the composer's life and/or compositional style, descriptions of selected works (including titles, nicknames, tempo designations of movements, and historical background information). Concludes with glossary and discography.

Cons: Extremely subjective information. Very opinion based.


Celentano, John, and Creech Reynolds. A Catalogue of Contemporary American Chamber Music. n.p.: American String Teachers Association, 1975. Mus Ref ML 128 .C4 C45x

Use: Provides information on contemporary chamber music for performers who intend to purchase parts.

Coverage: Chamber music by American composers - approximately 1930 - 1975. No other criteria listed.

Organization: Alphabetized by composer - then by work. Concise entries. Formatted like a table - horizontally across the page with headings at the top, composers and compositions listed on the vertical axis. Entries include composer, title, date of composition, instrumentation, where the work can be found, and comments on level of difficulty, duration, style of composition, performance clearance information etc.

Cons: Not comprehensive. Complete only through 1975.


Cohn, Arthur. The Literature of Chamber Music. Chapel Hill, NC: Hinshaw Music, Inc., 1997. Mus Ref ML 1100 .C73 1997 vol. 1-3

Use: Catalog and description of chamber works by various composers - some information on the composers themselves.

Coverage: Includes music for 2 - 9 performers with any instrumentation. Excludes compositions with vocal parts, piano duets and music for two pianos. Includes baroque, classic, romantic, impressionistic, expressionistic, and avant-garde music. Coverage is international. Attempts to provide complete information regarding chamber music literature through 1997.

Organization: In four volumes. Volume I contains prefatory notes, acknowledgments, and an introduction. Alphabetized by composer. (Vol. I Abaco - Eggen, Vol. II Eggerman - Kyurkchiisky, Vol. III Labey - Ronsheim , and Vol. IV Röntgen - Zwilich.) Most entries contain information on the composer and a list of his or her works. (Works are listed according to instrumentation.) Also includes prose descriptions of the works and their historical backgrounds.

Pros: Accessible, clear data. Non-traditional chamber literature well-represented in addition to the standard repertoire. Author claims to include all periods, styles, and musical types. Insightful commentary.   

Con: Extremely subjective to author opinion.


Forsyth, Ella Marie. Building a Chamber Music Collection: A Descriptive Guide to Published Scores. London: The Scarecrow Press, 1979. Mus Ref ML 128 .C4 F7

Use: As stated in the introduction, this book is "primarily designed to assist in the selection and purchase of performing editions."

Coverage: 300 published chamber pieces for 2 - 13 players. Attempts to cover pieces of the greatest musical worth from all eras and styles of composition. Includes works from the standard repertoire, works of lesser known composers, traditional and contemporary works, works with varying instrumental combinations, and most particularly, works which would most appeal to the beginning collector. (See introduction.)

Organization: Opens with a preface, a table of contents, and introduction, a section on how to use the book, a list of the core collection, and an abbreviations key. The descriptive guide is divided into sections by genre, (i.e. trios, quartets), then subdivided by instrumentation (i.e. piano trios, string trios). Each subdivision is arranged from the most important composition to the least important. Each entry includes the composer, title information, instrumentation, catalog number, composition or publication year, dedication information, duration, level of difficulty, movement names, descriptions of the work, a list of sources and publisher information. (See section on how to use the guide.)

Pros: Good for the teacher or chamber music coach.

Cons: Not comprehensive. Subject to the author's bias.


Gleason, Harold, and Warren Becker. Chamber Music from Haydn to Bartok. 2d ed. Music Literature Outline, Series V. Bloomington, IN: Frangipangi Press, 1980. Mus Ref ML 161 .G522 1980 ser. 5

Use: Presents broad information on chamber music. Intended as a study guide for someone who will perform, listen to (with the score), or research chamber music.

Coverage: Outlines works for 3 - 6 players (with an emphasis on the string quartet) from Haydn through Bartok. Excludes sonatas for two instruments and de-emphasizes works for wind and brass ensembles.

Organization: Contains fifteen outlines on various well-known chamber music composers (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel, etc.). Each outline includes historical information on the life of the composer, a general catalogue of his chamber works, and stylistic traits evident in his chamber works. Also includes specific information on significant chamber works such as dedications, nicknames, and stylistic traits unique to a given work. Outlines end with the bibliography.


Headington, Christopher. The Listener's Guide to Chamber Music. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1982. Mus Ref ML 1100 .H3

Use: General background information on various pieces of chamber music.

Coverage: Includes ensemble music for 2 - 10 players. As indicated in the preface, this source claims to cover the great chamber works through a historical approach based on the greatness of the chamber works, not the greatness of the composer. Follows European chamber music from its beginnings through 1982.

Organization: Introduction and eight chapters. Each chapter covers a historical period (i.e. the Classical Era), or composers grouped together by their stylistic similarities. Chapters include: 1 - The Beginning's up to the 17th Century, 2 - Suites and Sonatas in the Early 18th Century, 3 - The Classical Era, 4 - Beethoven and Schubert, 5 - The German Romantics, 6 - The German Romantics, 7 - France: Franck, Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel, and 8 - The Moderns. Each chapter begins with historical background information about the era, and then lists significant composers, their historical background, stylistic traits, references to their works and recommended recordings. General index at the end.

Cons: Selection of composers strongly subjective to author bias. Recording information out of date.


Rangel-Ribeiro, Victor, and Robert Markel. Chamber Music: An International Guide to Works and Their Instrumentation. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1993. Mus Ref ML 128 .C4 R3 1993

Use: Catalogues chamber works from all periods with the intent of helping a performer locate music written for a given instrument.

Coverage: Covers music from before the Baroque Era through 1992. Includes music for 3 - 20 players of diverse instruments (i.e. no cello quartets), and Renaissance and Baroque consort music of historical significance.

Organization: Begins with acknowledgments, preface and information on how to use the book. In three parts: Composers to the Time of Haydn and Mozart, Composers from Beethoven to Our Own Time, and Master-Quick Reference Index. Formatted in tables: alphabetized by composer (on the y - axis of the table) with the instrumentation information on the x - axis of the table. (The only exception to this is in the Master-Quick Index, where the genre, rather than the instrumentation, is listed on the x - axis.) Entries include title of work, publication or composition dates, composer birth and death dates, key, duration, instrumentation, and publisher.


Scott, William. A Conductor's Repertory of Chamber Music: Compositions for Nine to Fifteen Solo Instruments. Music Reference Collection, No. 39. London: Greenwood Press, 1993. Mus Ref ML 128 .C4 S37 1993

Use: Provides a list of chamber works that require a conductor. Oriented to the conducting student who has no access to a large orchestra.

Coverage: Catalogues over 1000 works for 9 - 15 players. Excludes works with vocal parts and works for groups of the same instrument. As the preface states, this source mainly includes music for mixed ensemble with combinations of string, wind, percussion and keyboard instruments.

Organization: Preface, acknowledgments, list of instrumental abbreviations, list of music publishers and an extensive introduction (A Historical Survey of Conduction Chamber Music). Divided into three sections: The Repertory , Repertory Classified, and Title Index. Alphabetized by composer, The Repertory is the complete database of compositions. Each entry includes instrumentation, publisher, composers' birth and death dates, and the number of musicians required to perform the piece. Repertory Classified lists compositions according to similar combinations of instruments. Title Index lists compositions alphabetically by title. Followed by bibliography.

Pros: Well constructed (see organization). Multiple reference methods (for ease of navigation).

Cons: Instrumental categories are not very diverse and lack depth. Contact information limited to country/city, and may be difficult to acquire listed works.