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FAURE, G.: Piano Quintets (Ortiz, Fine Arts Quartet)


Naxos 8.570938

   Gramophone Classical Music Guide, December 2012
   Gramophone Classical Music Guide, December 2011
   Amazon.com, March 2010
   La Folia, February 2010
   ArkivMusic, January 2010
   MusicWeb International, December 2009
   Fanfare, November 2009
   MusicWeb International, November 2009
   American Record Guide, November 2009
   MusicWeb International, October 2009
   International Record Review, October 2009
   The Strad, October 2009
   The Tenor Diaries, September 2009
   MusicWeb International, September 2009
   Gramophone, August 2009
   Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2009
   Amazon.com, July 2009
   Allmusic.com, July 2009
   BBC Music Magazine, July 2009
   The Telegraph, June 2009
   David's Review Corner, June 2009

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Gramophone Classical Music Guide, December 2012

Gramophone award-winner and recording of legendary status

Simply the best: An unrivalled version, a cornerstone of the catalogue. A real gem! © 2012 Gramophone Classical Music Guide



Gramophone Classical Music Guide, December 2011

One of Gramophone Classical Music Guide’s top 100 recordings

Ideally balanced and recorded, Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet offer performances that are warmly affectionate, fluent and musicianly to the core. Surpassing Domus’s fine Hyperion disc, these are outstanding readings and Ortiz is memorably sensitive to Faure’s subtle and intricate piano-writing. © 2011 Gramophone Classical Music Guide



Sean James
Amazon.com, March 2010

Red-blooded, passionate performances show these neglected works for the masterpieces they truly are.



Dan Davis
La Folia, February 2010

Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet nail Fauré’s particular combination of classic form and Romantic passion with perfection. They’re more expansive in the outer movements of the First Quintet, allowing for more detail and subtlety while their Adagio is tighter, more focused than their rival’s version. Ortiz’s crisply articulated piano under the busy strings in the second movement is a particular joy here, as is the way the ensemble fully captures the grave beauty of the Andante third movement by taking a flowing, more liquid approach to tempo, rhythm and melody that reflects their awareness of the style we hear in old recordings of French chamber groups of the 1920s and ’30s…Naxos’ Brazilian pianist and American string quartet are more idiomatically Gallic. The result is a disc to treasure.



ArkivMusic, January 2010

Named one of The Best Classical Recordings of 2009…One of top 3 in the chamber category. © 2010 ArkivMusic



Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, December 2009

MusicWeb International critic’s choice: Recording Of The Year 2009



Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, November 2009

This new [disc] with the Fine Arts Quartet and pianist Cristina Ortiz is definitely a keeper…The Fine Arts Quartet and Ortiz manage to scent this music with a bouquet I can only describe as quintessentially French. In their hands, Fauré’s music vibrates with a sentient tenderness almost too sad and too personal to be expressed. Beyond recommended, this is a mandatory purchase. Full review



Oleg Ledeniov
MusicWeb International, November 2009

The quintets are played with great devotion, showing fine balance and rich in delicate nuance. The ensemble is perfect, which is as expected from such an experienced group as the Fine Arts…The recording quality is first class, both clean and atmospheric. Another fine disc from Naxos. Full review



James Harrington
American Record Guide, November 2009

I cannot imagine better performances. Cristina Ortiz is one of the most musical pianists around, and her ability to integrate her sound so fully into the very fabric of these works makes for a very special recording. The Fine Arts Quartet plays with all the subtlety and refinement one could ask for—beautiful, balanced, and blended strings are exactly what is called for in these works. The recorded sound and perceptive notes complete a package, that, like much of what I see and hear from Naxos these days, would be a strong competitor at full price. At under $9 it simply can’t be beat.



Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, October 2009

These two major works of chamber music are nothing short of masterpieces, and show the care and time that Fauré took in composing them. At times dreamy, as in the opening movement of Op. 89 with its delicious d minor piano arpeggios, at others luminescent as in the gorgeous Andante of Op. 115. This is music that is indeed melodic, but not necessarily tuneful. In other words, a listener will get up having had a beautiful experience but perhaps not whistling any themes.

Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet are very welcome additions to endless supply of fine artists from Naxos, giving us performances that are marked by understated virtuosity, subtle shadings of color and finely honed ensemble playing. The strings perform with a shimmering uniformity of tone and the balance between the keyboard and strings is never off. Ms. Ortiz has had a distinguished career as a soloist, her early concerto recordings of Villa-Lobos and Shostakovich garnering her many rave reviews. Here as a chamber musician, she proves herself to be similarly superior, playing with verve and panache, and as a complete partner in the music making.

This is music of immeasurable elegance. Yes, there are technical challenges to be met, but this ensemble plays with such refined finesse that the only thing that comes across is beauty. These are performances in which a listener can simply luxuriate, thoroughly enjoying the wash of sound that comes out of the speakers. Let’s hope that these artists come together again soon. Perhaps some Brahms and Schumann? Shostakovich maybe? The possibilities are exciting just to think about!



Mark Pullinger
International Record Review, October 2009

From the outset, Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet find just the right elegiac atmosphere…the Second Piano Quintet marks the pinnacle of Fauré’s chamber output and is performed here with great affection. The opening movement is radiantly played…a notable addition to the catalogue.



Tully Potter
The Strad, October 2009

In Fauré there is no substitute for experience, and these five veterans show all their modern rivals the way home…The playing has an irresistible pulse…They produce the essence of Romantic playing…lovely tone and lovely phrasing…These are delectable performances.



Kevin Sutton
The Tenor Diaries, September 2009

ELEGANT CHAMBER MUSIC. These two major works of chamber music are nothing short of masterpieces. Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet…give us performances that are marked by understated virtuosity, subtle shadings of color and finely honed ensemble playing. The strings perform with a shimmering uniformity of tone and the balance between the keyboard and strings is never off…This ensemble plays with such refined finesse that the only thing that comes across is beauty. These are performances in which a listener can simply luxuriate, thoroughly enjoying the wash of sound that comes out of the speakers. Let’s hope that these artists come together again soon. Perhaps some Brahms and Schumann? Shostakovich maybe? The possibilities are exciting just too think about! Full review



Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, September 2009

What entrancing music this is: elusive and enigmatic. It demonstrates how unjust is the relative neglect of Fauré’s chamber works.

For this attractive new Naxos recording the Fine Arts Quartet comprises: Ralph Evans and Efim Boico (violins), Yuri Gandelsman (viola) and Wolfgang Laufer (cello) with the pianistic talents of Cristina Ortiz. Evans, Boico and Laufer have been performing together for over 25 years. This team’s readings compare very well with that on the acclaimed Hyperion equivalent recorded back in 1995 with Domus (Susan Tomes (piano), Krysia Osostowicz (violin), Timothy Boulton (viola) and Richard Lester (cello)) with the additional talent of Anthony Marwood (violin).

Fauré’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 89 occupied him intermittently over approaching twenty years as ideas occurred and as problems were solved. The opening movement begins with a beautiful, plaintive, long-breathed melody for the strings, developing over limpid, rippling piano figurations. The music moves on through more austere, wistful and passionate moods: Domus are quicker paced and intense at 10:25 while the Fine Arts’ reading is dreamier, more other-worldly and heartfelt. This movement includes a particularly beguiling melody at about 3:23—on the Naxos recording. The gentle central Adagio movement is sweetly melancholic and introspective. Both the Naxos and Hyperion recordings clock in at 10:56. Both have beautiful little felicities of nuance, dynamics and shading.  The concluding Allegretto moderato is a lighter-veined divertissement—again, the two ensembles sharing the same timing of 7:22; the Domus team displaying a lighter-hearted attitude, the opening piano figures being more emphatically bell-like.

Fauré’s devoted pupil, Charles Koechlin, commenting on the Second Piano Quintet, observed that it ‘was with pleasant surprise that people found such vigorous and youthful music in a veteran composer … Perhaps we see in this … the finest first movement of Gabriel Fauré.’ This opening movement certainly opens more vigorously yet there is that same elusive ambiguity, too, added to subtle rhythmic shifting between triple and quadruple time. The Fine Arts reading is nearly a minute slower than Domus who are more forceful yet quite charming. The Fine Arts’ reading is that much more intense. The second Allegro vivo movement is a light-hearted, quicksilver scherzo with rapid scale figures for the piano and a lilting waltz introduced by the strings. The Domus reading is technically dazzling and their waltz lilts beautifully but overall their reading does not quite appeal as much as that of the Fine Arts. The long Andante third movement has something of the melancholy of Fauré’s First Piano Quintet. It finds Domus lingering unusually longer at 10:57, as opposed to Fine Arts’ 10:16. Domus show a more deeply felt air of gentle resignation whereas the Fine Arts team opt for a more romantic, more upbeat, more optimistic view. The Allegro molto finale has a high-spirited outlook and it appears from Fauré’s letters that he enjoyed working on it. Here Domus regain their faster-paced spirit; their exuberance is countered by the Fine Arts artists who find a more autumnal quality.

Two magical, enchanting chamber works in alluring performances by the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz.



Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, August 2009

Outstanding performances of Faure’s two radiant piano quintets

Faure’s two piano quintets are music of an inimitable strength, radiance and intimacy, even when they release their secrets slowly. The mood of restrained elegy alternates with a sense of courage in adversity. Faure’s last years were, after all, dogged by increasing deafness, an unhappy marriage, a wholesale neglect of even his finest works and a continuing grief over his father’s death. True, the ceaseless flow of invention has puzzled many listeners (“verse innocent of punctuation”) but for others the First Quintet’s opening theme, heard beneath a spray of piano arpeggios, or the strange, archaic dance commencing the same work’s finale are features that can haunt the imagination for ever. The whirling figuration, too, of the Second Quintet’s Allegro vivo (a memory of the Fifth Impromptu for solo piano) is again somehow part and parcel of an autumnal, other-worldly utterance that can be both heart-easing and disturbing.

Ideally balanced and recorded, Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet offer performances that are warmly affectionate, fluent and musicianly to the core. Surpassing even Domus’s fine Hyperion disc, these are outstanding readings and Ortiz in particular is memorably sensitive to Faure’s subtle and intricate piano-writing. Hopefully the same team will give us in time the earlier piano quartets and the late Piano Trio.



Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2009

The wonderful Brazilian pianist Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet…sound great playing together as they cultivate the close string blend that Fauré’s writing requires, and they show a definite feeling for his glowing harmonies…In sum, I like everything about these performances by Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet. They are the epitome of refinement, warmth and economy. Full review



J Scott Morrison
Amazon.com, July 2009

Glorious, Subtle Playing of these Glorious, Subtle Works…Both works are given subtle and musical performances here by the Fine Arts Quartet and pianist Cristina Ortiz…If you are in the market for the Fauré piano quintets, snap it up.



James Leonard
Allmusic.com, July 2009

There are many outstanding recordings of Fauré’s two piano quintets available, and this 2009 Naxos disc by the Fine Arts Quartet with pianist Cristina Ortiz can take its place among the finest. The American chamber group plays with complete unanimity; though each musician is clearly an individual, in their more than 50 years together, the members of the Fine Arts Quartet have refined their ensemble to the point where their individuality has become truly collective. Joined here by Brazilian virtuoso Ortiz, they produce a comely sound and offer lively performances of the two quintets. In fast movements, particularly the second quintet’s Allegro vivo, they hold together tightly. In slow movements, especially the first quintet’s Adagio, they sing together beautifully, bringing out the deep longing and affecting expressivity at the music’s heart. Captured in lean, clean, yet atmospheric sound, this recording is another feather in the cap of the performers, and adds another outstanding recording of these chamber music masterpieces to the catalogue.



Jessica Duchen,
BBC Music Magazine, July 2009

The Fine Arts Quartet has a notably ‘golden age’ approach, drawing on the aesthetic of an era not far from Fauré’s own and bringing both quintets fully to life in every bar. The sweet-toned first violin Ralph Evans produces portamenti worthy of Fauré’s friend Jacques Thibaud; Ortiz’s playing blends in sensitively, dousing the texture with showers of pianistic glitter; and the ensemble’s vibrant emotionalism—though suitably modified for Fauré’s purposes—emphasises the passion and questing exploration within the composer’s elusive language.



Geoffrey Norris
The Telegraph, June 2009

Brazilian pianist Cristina Ortiz joins up with the American Fine Arts Quartet for this disc of Fauré’s two piano quintets. The first…opens magically, with tinkling piano arpeggios beautifully played by Ortiz, before plunging into vigorous string figures…The great merit of this disc is the perfect integration of the piano into the quartet.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2009

Their account of both [quintets] is outgoing and often highly charged...and Ortiz brings a wealth of delicate playing.






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