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Saint-Saens: Piano Quartet, Piano Quintet / Ortiz

Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572904   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Cristina Ortiz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SAINT-SAËNS Piano Quartet in Bb, Op. 41. Barcarolle in F, Op. 108. Piano Quintet in a, Op. 14 Fine Arts Qrt; Cristina Ortiz (pn) NAXOS 8.572904 (71:12)

To find a review of Saint-Saëns’s Bb-Major Piano Quartet in the Fanfare Archive, you’d have to go back 13 years, to 2000, where, in issue 23:6, Peter J. Read more Rabinowitz dismissed a recording on ASV (nla) by the Touchwood Piano Quartet. And to find a review of the A-Minor Piano Quintet, you’d have to go back eight years, to 2005, where, in issue 29:1, I accorded a recommendation to a two-disc Hyperion set of the composer’s chamber works performed by the Nash Ensemble. That set, by the way, also included the Bb-Piano Quartet.

Since then, the only other more recent version of the piano quartet I know of, besides this new one, is by the Mozart Piano Quartet on an MDG SACD; and to the best of my knowledge, there have been no more recent versions, save for this new one, of the A-Minor Piano Quintet. I think it’s fair to say, therefore, that Saint-Saëns’s chamber works for strings alone, and for strings with piano, have been largely neglected on disc compared to the composer’s duo sonatas. Why this is so, I’m not sure, for the two main works on this disc are real beauties, displaying all of Saint-Saëns’s best qualities: supple melodies, easeful, ear-pleasing harmonies, and easy-going counterpoint, all in seemingly artless, spontaneous craft that conceals its art.

If you’re unfamiliar with these works, Naxos’s new CD featuring the always reliable Fine Arts Quartet, joined by first-rate pianist Cristina Ortiz, is an economical purchase you shouldn’t pass up. The performances are excellent, as is to be expected from these seasoned and sensitive musicians, and the recording, made in 2012 in the near ideal Performing Arts Center Concert Hall at New York’s Purchase College, is nigh perfect. I will admit to harboring a slight preference for the performance of the piano quartet by the Ames Piano Quartet on a long-ago acquired Dorian CD, but that has now been incorporated into an eight-disc Ames anthology on Sono Luminus.

As for the two-disc Hyperion set with the Nash players, which I also have, it’s indispensable as a broader collection of Saint-Saëns’s chamber music, which includes beautifully performed readings of the composer’s last three wind sonatas. I haven’t heard the above-mentioned Mozart Piano Quartet on MDG, so I’m not able to comment. But the Naxos disc at hand offers the composer’s only major works in the piano quartet and piano quintet genres, and it’s a bargain to boot. Note: the MDG recording includes a Piano Quartet in E Major published posthumously in 1992 that Saint-Saëns wrote when he was 18, a work also recorded by the Quatuor Elyséen on Arion.

The Barcarolle included on the present CD is heard here in an arrangement for piano quartet made by the composer himself of a piece he originally wrote in 1897 for violin, cello, harmonium, and piano. For a barcarolle, there are some rather uncharacteristic squalls and turbulence that toss this particular gondola about on the waves, but it reaches shore intact.

Very strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins Read less

Works on This Recording

Quartet for Piano and Strings in B flat major, Op. 41 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Cristina Ortiz (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; France 
Barcarolle for Violin, Cello, Organ and Piano in F major, Op. 108 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Cristina Ortiz (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; France 
Quintet for Piano and Strings in A minor, Op. 14 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Cristina Ortiz (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; France 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  5 Customer Reviews )
 Exquisite Ensemble Musicianship January 31, 2014 By Robert Elden (New York, NY) See All My Reviews "The Fine Arts Quartet, and their most able colleague, Christina Ortiz have produced a most exquisite musical treat. All three of the works presented on this CD are rendered with a loving caress, full of warmth and perfectly nuanced ensemble playing as is wanted in these Saint-Saens chamber works. I'm so pleased to have it assume a treasured place in my ever-growing collection." Report Abuse
 Excellent performances of chamber works from Sain June 10, 2013 By Warren Harris See All My Reviews "This CD consists of Camille Saint-Saens Piano Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 41, his Barcarolle in F Major, Op. 108, and the Piano Quintet in A-minor, Op. 14. It is difficult to know where to begin, as the entire disc is sooooooooo good! The Piano Quartet is marvelously performed, with just the right amount of light-handedness when appropriate, and lyrical but purposeful phrases from the piano applying driving pressure but without dominating. This is fine chamber music making, and the Fine Arts Quartet w/ Ms. Ortiz does a fantastic job here. The piece is evocative, captivating, and provocative. I must confess to listening to it again and again. The Barcarolle is a wonderful choice as the middle piece, breathing and flowing while the piano makes point after point. This is a piece that is not heard often, and that is a shame because it is truly wonderful. The disc finishes with the Piano Quintet, and again the Fine Arts Quartet and Ms. Ortiz bring this work to dramatic life right from the get-go. The work swirls and builds to crescendo after crescendo, with astonishing sensitivity throughout. The Andante movement is just a treat, and the closing Allegro movement is marvelously played and has a very organic feel to it. I have nothing negative to say about this recording. It is fantastic! Highly Recommended." Report Abuse
 muddled mess May 8, 2013 By Aaron M. (Miami beach, FL) See All My Reviews "piano playing is a muddled mess --- Saint-Saëns's music requires real dexterity and clarity from the pianist, and it doesn't happen here. This music is all about counterpoint; the B-flat Piano Quartet, in particular, is Bachian and needs clarity in texture." Report Abuse
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