By Randi Bjornstad

Chamber Music Amici continues its 2023-24 season on Feb. 11 and 12, 2024, with a program titled One and Only, featuring Claude Debussy’s Piano Trio in G Major and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quintet in A Minor, Opus 14.

Interestingly, while both composers are revered by audiences, they didn’t necessarily appreciate each other’s skills. Saint-Saëns, born in 1935, was older by 27 years and was considered one of the “grand Romantics,” along with Dvorak, Puccini and Verdi. Debussy, on the other hand, was tiring of the Romantic Period’s style and, reflecting changes in art generally, helped to bring Musical Impressionism into vogue.

In fact, WQXR Radio, New York City’s classical music station, declared the mutual distaste between the two to be one of “5 Classical Rivalries That Left Bad Blood,” which can be seen online at

In a 2016 editorial on the subject, WQXR says that “Saint-Saëns was not on good terms with all of his contemporaries.” The older composer considered Debussy’s modernism to lack “style, logic, and common sense” and went so far as to try to block the younger composer from election to the prestigious Institut de France. For his part, Debussy retorted that, “I have a horror of sentimentality and cannot forget that its name is Saint-Saëns.”

(Incidentally, the other four “classical rivalries” named by WQXR were Louis Armstrong vs. Dizzy Gillespie; Johannes Brahms vs. Richard Wagner; Clara Schumann vs. Franz Lizst; and Pyotr Tchaikovsky vs. The Five, apparently because Tchaikovsky considered his Western European conservatory training superior to that of Russian composers Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, César Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin.)

All that aside, by now the reputations of all of these feuding composers have stood the test of time, the value of their works firmly established and appreciated by modern audiences.

The musicians for this Chamber Music Amici concert will be Hal Grossman, violin; Arnaud Ghillebaert, viola; Steven Pologe, cello; Colin Pip Dixon, violin; and Susan DeWitt Smith, piano.

Terry McQuilkin will give a pre-concert talk beginning 45 minutes before each performance.

Chamber Music Amici: one and only

When: 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11 and 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12

Where: Richard Wildish Community Theater, 630 Main St., Springfield

Tickets: $32/$40/$42/$45; $5 for students and parents of students (except rows A and K); available online in advance at