Saint-Saens Piano Quartet, Piano Quintet and Barcarolle

"The Saint-Saens disk…offering the delectable Piano Quartet in B flat and the Piano Quintet in A minor…is a gem! The brilliant pianist Cristina Ortiz is sensitively accompanied by the Fine Arts Quartet in…wonderfully natural sound. This is a true winner in every way! (Robert Benson, Classical CD Review, July 2014) Full review

***** A marvelous CD. Splendid music, nicely recorded." (A F Chaplin, Amazon.com.uk, 2 March 2014)

***** Exquisite Ensemble Musicianship - 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." (Robert E., Arkivmusic.com, January 31, 2014)

***** "Stunning playing. It is hard not to be convinced that these works are complete masterpieces on hearing Cristina Ortiz's superb pianism. In the Quartet the variety of tone and pedalling she gets in the opening repeated figuration holds the ear through every phrase, and there is a sense of enjoyment of the sonority and elation at the beauty of the music...The Barcarolle and Quintet are equally seductive...The sound is full, warm, integrated in terms of the strings against the piano, and full of subtle nuances in the piano: it's a dream of a disc. (schumann_bg, Amazon.co.uk, 7 Dec 2013) Full review

"The Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz provide beautifully articulated accounts of both works." (Guy Rickards, International Piano, December 2013)

GENTLE ACCOUNTS PERFORMED WITH ROMANTIC RELISH: The Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz find much that is gentle amid the hot-bloodedness of Saint-Saëns’s chamber music. The opening of the B flat major Piano Quartet is seductive, and the string theme that follows soon afterwards has a delightful lilt. The second movement Andante maestoso is terrific, with energetic staccato strings...The Barcarolle...has a sensuous swing, punctuated with high-spirited string outbursts. In the A minor Piano Quintet...Ortiz rises splendidly to its challenges. The Quartet plays with a beguiling lightness of touch." (Tim Homfray, The Strad, November 2013) Full review

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“A gripping performance of Saint-Saëns' Piano Quartet, a sparkling account of the early Piano Quintet and a sublime Barcarolle make a superlative disc from the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz. 5 stars.” (Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine, September 2013)

"This new Naxos [recording]...is simply wonderful...The playing is smooth and rich...The phrasing is ideal...This is a very recent American recording, and it belongs with the very best — as do the performances."(Donald R Vroon, American Record Guide, Sep/Oct 2013)

"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...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...is nigh perfect...Very strongly recommended." (Jerry Dubins, Fanfare, Sep/Oct 2013)

"Saint-Saens's Piano Quartet...is a heck of a piece, and both Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet play it with exactly the right balance of tension and brio...The Fine Arts Quartet members are old hands at playing chamber music regardless of era or style. I do not hesitate to recommend this disc."(Lynn Rene Bayley, Fanfare, July/August 2013)

"Fine Arts Quartet nos brinda un sonido pletórico a la vez que equilibrado, con una cuidada gradación dinámica, afinación impoluta y elegancia en el fraseo. Cristina Ortiz vence todas las dificultades con magistral aplomo, entrelazándose con la cuerda con admirable precisión y equilibrio."(Joaquim Zueras Navarro, Sinfonía Virtual, July 2013)

"Un peu de calme en cette plénitude estivale avec Saint-Saëns et ses œuvres pour piano, cordes. Dans un esprit tout à fait musique de chambre avec une prise de son capiteuse, le Fine Arts Quartet et la pianiste Cristina Ortiz, tout en symbiose, démontre que Saint-Saëns avait une connaissance parfaite des solistes, d’où la précision, la sobriété dans la difficulté pourrions-nous dire, ainsi que l’imagination. Plus que toute jolie, cette nouveauté à moins de dix dollars pourra vous accompagner sur la route des vacances." (Christophe Rodriguez, Journal de Montréal, July 2013)

"Das Fine Arts Quartet demonstriert mit Cristina Ortiz großes Können."  (H.-D. Grünefeld, Ensemble, Juni 2013)

"The Fine Arts Quartet play with perfectly judged elegance throughout. A fine recording." (Stephen Pritchard, The Guardian/Observer, 2 June 2013) Full Review

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"The Fine Arts Quartet is one of the best ensembles around at creating a luxurious romantic atmosphere, with all four players capable of making their instruments sing, sing, sing. To this full-bodied quartet add the able pianism of Cristina Ortiz, a pairing which has already proved delightful in Fauré and Franck, and satisfaction is basically guaranteed. Excellent sound makes this a treat for all those who enjoy the byways of the romantic era."(Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International, June 2013) Full review

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"In der Einspielung bei Naxos sind das Fine Arts Quartet, eine der ältesten Streichquartett-Formationen der USA, und die brasilianische Pianistin Christina Ortiz zu hören. Ihre Zusammenarbeit hat sich bereits vielfach bewährt, für Naxos spielten die Künstler u.a. auch die Klavierquintette von Gabriel Fauré, César Franck und Robert Schumann ein. Die Musiker sind also ein eingespieltes Team und verstehen sich offensichtlich blendend. Dabei ist es beruhigend, den anspruchsvollen Klavierpart in den Händen von einer Virtuosin wie Christina Ortiz zu wissen, sie meistert ihren Part einfach souverän."  (Norbert Hornig, Deutschlandradio, 02.06.2013) Full review

"EXCELLENT PERFORMANCES OF CHAMBER WORKS FROM SAINT-SAENS!...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. 

(Warren Harris, Amazon.com, June, 2013) Full review

***** "SUPERB CHAMBER MUSIC PLAYED WITH GREAT AFFECTION...The Fine Arts Quartet and Ms. Ortiz have given us a beautifully considered account of the three [Saint-Saens] works; personally, I find this my favorite recording...a great recording of glorious music ...All of these works are played with mastery, nuance and great affection. I cannot imagine any music lover not getting great satisfaction from this recording - you will be listening to this for years to come!" (Matthew J. Mosca, Amazon.com, May 26,2013) Full review

"Exuberant performance by the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz"(Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone, May 2013)

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"RECORDING OF THE MONTH...The Fine Arts Quartet and the always reliable Cristina Ortiz deliver winning performances that are a joy to the ear...A gorgeous programme of Saint-Saëns’ beguiling chamber music played with great authority and flair." 

(Ian Lace, MusicWeb-International, April 2013) Full review

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***** "Fantastic CD [headline]. I have listened to this CD almost non-stop since I got it and wonder if I shall ever tire of it. I am a great fan of Saint-Saens, but for some reason had neither heard these pieces in concert nor as a recording and I wonder why not as they richly deserve greater exposure. The Fine Arts Quartet play them with gusto and beautifully incisive articulation and the balance between the piano and strings is superb. This is top notch playing from all the musicians and there is real chemistry between them. My Christmas presents for 2014 are already solved: everyone I know will get a copy of this addictive CD." 

(Bitternwatcher, Amazon.co.uk, 26 April 2013)

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"El cuarteto Fine Arts Quartet se fundó en Chicago el 1946... Sesenta años más tarde, es reconfortante ver cómo evoluciona el conjunto de cámara haciendo gala de la cohesión instrumental y del rigor interpretativo que han mantenido durante varias décadas, aunque con diferentes músicos. Los violinistas Ralph Evans y Efim Boico, el violista Nicolo Eugelmi y el violoncelista Robert Cohen (incorporado al conjunto el pasado 2012) transmiten con nervio y energía la esencia de este legado de música de cámara norte-americana que ha actuado en todos los continentes...No se le escapa al oyente la belleza lírica de algunos movimientos ni la exquisitez que manejan los músicos."

(Marçal Borotau, Sonograma Magazine, 29 abril 2013)

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"D’une grande qualité sonore, ce DC vous charmera sans aucun doute." (Brigitte  Dunwoody, Le BabillART, April 2013)

Todavía recordamos mucho las maravillosas grabaciones de Cristina Ortiz; la pianista brasileña, que desde hace muchos años reside en Europa, sin duda una artista de profunda formación y sonido exquisito, nos ha ido ofreciendo generosas interpretaciones de autores tan diversos como Heitor Villa-Lobos, Wilhelm Stenhammar o Clara Schumann. No tenemos ninguna duda de que Ortiz domina una amplia gama de repertorio. Ahora, junto al Fine Arts Quartet, recupera tres obras de cámara poco conocidas del compositor francés Camille Saint-Saëns, todo un lujo de inventiva e interpretación. El cuarteto Fine Arts Quartet se fundó en Chicago el 1946...Sesenta años más tarde, es reconfortante ver cómo evoluciona el conjunto de cámara haciendo gala de la cohesión instrumental y del rigor interpretativo que han mantenido durante varias décadas, aunque con diferentes músicos. Los violinistas Ralph Evans y Efim Boico, el violista Nicolo Eugelmi y el violoncelista Robert Cohen (incorporado al conjunto el pasado 2012) transmiten con nervio y energía la esencia de este legado de música de cámara norte-americana que ha actuado en todos los continentes…No se le escapa al oyente la belleza lírica de algunos movimientos ni la exquisitez que manejan los músicos." (Marcal Borotau, Sonograma  Magazine, April 2013)

*****

"This is simply a fabulous CD, as one would hope from the all-star line-up. It charmed me from the first few notes, with warm, clear playing from all and a good recording - I particularly like the fact that the atmospheric noise (like string fingering) has been left in, transporting you into the middle of the ensemble. Like Mendelssohn, with whom he was often compared, Saint-Saens in the wrong hands can be a bit dull. Instead this thoughtful playing has both warmth and drama with lovely clarity. I have listened to it again and again; all three works are strong (and fit together nicely - good programming!), although my favourite is the Quartet which opens the disc. I don't think I really need to say any more! Buy it if you like Saint-Saens, French music or just chamber music in general; you won't be disappointed. A final bonus is the traditional Naxos low price - I would have paid twice as much for this."

(Will, Amazon.co.uk, 18 March 2013)

Full review

"Following on from their highly successful Naxos recordings of piano quintets by Fauré and Franck, Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet now turn their attention to the music of Camille Saint-Saëns...The Piano Quartet in B flat, op.41 ...receives a marvelous, loving performance, beautifully paced and full of character whilst retaining all of its essential charm. Ortiz and her colleagues are equally at home in the mellifluously Schumannesque lyricism of the opening Allegretto and the angst-ridden severity of the enigmatic Andante. Amid the Mendelssohnian grace and lightness of the scherzo, both the Fine Arts' leader Ralph Evans and Ortiz provide fine, teasingly executed cadenzas, and in the concluding cyclic Allegro as throughout, there's a pleasing warmth and depth to the tone, building to an impressive conclusion. There follows a splendidly captivating, surprisingly full-blooded performance of the 1897 Barcarolle in F...[In the Piano Quintet], Ortiz makes light work of the music's often concerto-like technical demands, and there's an ideal deftness of touch, too, in the strings' accompaniment. The second-movement Andante sostenuto is especially radiant radiance, while the following Presto fairly bristles with energy. In the finale the Fine Arts Quartet enjoy their piano-free moments in the limelight, and all in all this is a most persuasive account of a beguiling work. With playing of immense cultivation, an ideal balance between the players, and all at budget price, this is a most tempting and welcome release from these star Naxos performers."

(The Europadisc Review, March 2013) 

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"Saint-Saens' Piano Quartet in B flat is performed with verve by the Fine Arts Quartet. The gorgeous Barcarolle is followed by the youthful Piano Quintet in A minor, with Chrisina Ortiz on the keyboard."(Northern Echo, March 2013) Full review

"EXCELLENT SOUND...The sound quality and balance between the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz is excellent throughout this recording. All three works on the CD are pleasing to listen to and the articulation, dynamics and ensemble playing throughout is impressive...This CD is a great choice for those who enjoy the music of Saint-Saens - you will struggle to find a recording of better quality!"

(Emmajane, Amazon.co.uk, March 2013) Full review

***** AN OUTSTANDING RELEASE OF SAINT-SAENS' CHAMBER MUSIC...

It's hard not to be seduced by this music, especially when the advocates for these works are of such a high calibre. 

The Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz have collaborated many times before, including several very well-received releases for Naxos, and I am delighted to say that this CD is up to their usual standard. The level of understanding between the players is evident through the superb sense of ensemble, amply demonstrated throughout each work. They begin with the B flat major Piano Quartet, an instantly attractive work that displays fine playing from all.  

Sandwiched in between the Quartet and Quintet is a Barcarolle, Op. 108...the perfect filler between the two more substantial works - hats off to whoever devised the programming for the disc. The Quintet fairs no less well than the other two works, and Ortiz's exquisitely clean articulation in the first movement could scarcely be bettered. I should also mention that the sound here and elsewhere on the disc is excellent in every respect: balance between piano and the string instruments is pretty well ideal to my ears, and the sound quality is beautifully clear, detailed and warm. In short, superb performances of very attractive repertoire, wonderfully captured on a disc worth twice its asking price. 

(Mr. D. P. Wells, Amazon.co.uk, 27 Feb 2013) 

Full Review 

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