A Chadwick postlude

Somehow, I’ve added the Chadwick quartets and piano quintet to my annual autumn repertoire ritual. The late works here overlap years of the earliest ones of Ives, and both are grounded in the spirit of New England from the close of the Civil War onward.

Like Ives, George Whitefield Chadwick was an organist and knew the mainstream Protestant hymns. Though he never quotes them directly, as far as I can tell, they do infuse his harmonies. A neighbor, no fan of classical music, once entered my apartment and reacted, “Hey, I like that,” to the Third Quartet. I believe that was an instinctive reaction to something American in the writing, that long overlooked role of pieces sung as part of community worship. Though Chadwick, like Ives, takes us far beyond that.

It’s an annual ritual, to delve into special pieces, to make sure I do not neglect them. But also, by putting them away for their season, to assure I do not kill their appeal by over-familiarity, either. How often I wish we’d do the same with the more familiar repertoire. There’s so much more to be discovered and assimilate and ultimately cherish, especially from our own shores.


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