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Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, July 2012

Most readers are familiar with Kreisler’s shorter compositions, many of which, for a time, he harmlessly attributed to older composers. Apart from his operettas, his String Quartet is his largest work. The smoochy, portamento-rich playing of the Fine Arts Quartet is entirely appropriate.

Ysaÿe’s Harmonies du soir…is scored for string quartet and string orchestra. If you imagine Transfigured Night soaked overnight in light syrup, you will get a good idea of what this work sounds like—a guilty pleasure, in other words.

I think the Fine Arts Quartet does a fine job of balancing on this tightrope. The generic-sounding Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe is an international ensemble based in both Germany and the Netherlands. It provides the Fine Arts Quartet with like-minded support in the Ysaÿe.

This program has been put together intelligently, and the performances are excellent. Now it’s your move, but I’d advise you to go for it… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review



Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, June 2012

This disc is a skilful collation of three little known works by three of the great violinist/composers of the early 20th century. In many ways the Fine Arts Quartet could be seen as ideal interpreters of this period of music. Although virtuosity of itself is not the sole purpose of these works it is a key element so again it is pleasing to report that the quartet both as individuals as well as a group are fully up to the considerable task.

In the Kreisler Quartet in particular the Fine Arts embrace the ‘old-school’ use of portamenti with an enthusiasm and ubiquity which I do not think I have ever heard to this degree in a modern recording. I have to stress that in an era obsessed with ‘authenticity’ this is thoroughly authentic. Add to that a super-sweet use of vibrato and a collective approach to articulation that squeezes into chords and you will realise that you are entering a very particular sound-world. For want of a better phrase the Fine Arts, sweet-toothed and urbane, favour a very decadent performing style…what is clear with all the compositions on offer here is clearly the work of composers who understand the very essence of string playing. Each piece abounds in effective use of the instruments as well as being exceptionally demanding.

Interestingly the Zimbalist Quartet…benefits from a consistently leaner compositional approach. This is reflected in the way that the Fine Arts ‘modernise’ their playing too.

The Ysaÿe Harmonies du soir which completes the disc is a curious beast. The strings of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe provide the lushly warm bed of sound over which the Fine Arts Quartet rapturously entwine. The orchestral strings are perfectly good—and the recording integrates the groups well…The orchestra are attentive and accurate…The quartet revert to the more swooning style of the Kreisler which again I’m sure is wholly authentic.

Roy Malan contributes a good liner and the engineering of the disc is unfussily good with the quartet sensibly placed in a pleasingly warm and appropriate acoustic. As usual with Naxos good playing length ensures value for money too. No lost masterpieces here but a disc of real interest for those aficionados of unusual chamber repertoire played to a very high standard by the fine Fine Arts Quartet. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Elaine Fine
American Record Guide, May 2012

…Fritz Kreisler’s…1919 String Quartet is…rich with souvenirs from late 19th Century Vienna: a bit of Richard Strauss, a bit of Hugo Wolf, and a lot of nostalgia. Ever the pastiche artist, Kreisler uses colors found in relatively new string quartets of the time like Puccini’s ‘Chrysanthemums’ (1890) and Turina’s ‘Bullfighter’s Prayer’…

His [Efrem Zimbalist’s] 1931 Quartet is squarely set in the colors of Belaiev’s Fridays in St Petersburg with a good deal of homage to Glazounov, a little to Liadov, and perhaps a little to Borodin…it is colorful. My favorite movement is IV, a Lark-Quartet-like and moderately Mendelssohnian moto perpetuo that stars the first violin. It sounds like it would be devilish to play…but these musicians seem to enjoy steering their way around all the orange cones on the musical road.

Harmonies du Soir is sort of like a 20th Century Belgian answer to Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. The indulgent parallelism of the opening gives way to a rich and expressive fugue that begins in the solo quartet and expands through what sounds like divisi voices of the orchestra. The music returns to rich parallelism that is crowned by expansive solos in all the voices of the solo quartet. It is beautifully written music that is beautifully played.

I imagine that this piece will be popping up on concert programs everywhere (once people get their hands and ears on this recording) and perhaps it will inspire orchestras to program more of Ysaÿe’s neglected orchestral music. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online



Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, May 2012

Two of the works on this disc—Zimbalist’s String Quartet and Ysaÿe’s Harmonies du soir—are premiere recordings.

The first movement, titled Fantasia, is a dead ringer for César Franck’s 1889 D-Major String Quartet. The second movement, a scherzo, is positively Mendelssohnian. The lovely Romanze returns to a Franck-Fauré-Debussy idiom, while the finale, titled “Retrospection,” takes on the character of some of Kreisler’s lighter salon pieces. It’s a sort of Caprice viennois flirting with a Fuchs serenade.

Ysaÿe’s Harmonies du soir…described in Roy Malan’s program note as “a sensuously chromatic journey through thickly textured emotions and colors finally leading, by restlessly climbing motifs, to a glorious sunrise in C.”

…the Zimbalist and Ysaÿe pieces are firsts on disc…both scores find themselves in excellent hands with the Fine Arts Quartet and, in the Ysaÿe, joined by the string section of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe led by Otis Klöber.

The performances on the current Naxos CD are top-notch, as is the recording. The three works are appealing enough and certainly of sufficient interest to warrant recommendation, especially given a release so affordably priced. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare



Byzantion
MusicWeb International, April 2012

The Fine Arts Quartet…are nearly all singled out for their exceptional merit, on display again in this latest recording, where their technical prowess and expressive power are tested time and again by three composers that knew more than anyone what string instruments were capable of. Kreisler’s ‘sound’ is stamped on his writing as much as it was on his playing, but the Fine Arts have the good taste not to over-sweeten the rubato or portamento. By way of contrast, this is Otis Klöber and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe’s first recording for Naxos, and…they acquit themselves nicely. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



David Denton
The Strad, March 2012

‘A skilfully crafted and beautiful four-movement score [Kreisler’s String Quartet in A Minor] brought vividly to life by the Fine Arts Quartet, which, through its liberal use of vibrato, enhances the warmth on which the music thrives…This disc is a real discovery that I can recommend without reservation.’ © 2012 The Strad



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, February 2012

Founded in 1946 the Fine Arts Quartet (FAQ) has gained a reputation as one of America’s finest chamber ensembles, and their carefully judged interpretations of these quartets certainly show why. Many will find their more pragmatic approach to the Kreisler preferable to the other maudlin versions currently out there. As for the Ysaÿe, the FAQ and Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe strings under conductor Otis Klöber deliver a stirring account of this arcane score. © 2012 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review



James Manheim
Allmusic.com, February 2012

Hats off to the Fine Arts Quartet for a daring program that delivers some real finds. © 2012 Allmusic.com Read complete review




Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, February 2012

As soon as cellist Wolfgang Laufer makes his first entry into the A Minor Quartet (1919) of Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962), we realize that the beloved Viennese master violinist possessed a decided melodic gift, rife with “orientalisms” and shifts into modal harmony.

The first violin part, here realized by Ralph Evans, enjoys a strong concertante presence, the texture’s often approximating a concertino status.  When the cello joins the violin in the first movement: Fantasia duet, we can almost hear Kreisler and Casals in the Brahms Double Concerto. The Scherzo chimes in spiccato figures a step away from Tambourin Chinois. The phrase endings virtually melt into Viennese schlag, the viola (Nicolo Eugelmi) plying his own version of an Eastern chant over a drone bass. The unassuming Romanze: Allegretto conveys an easy sentimentality, rather a Hollywood sweetness appropriate for a Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald lyric. The last movement, Retrospection (Rueckblick) canters rather gaily in rustic syncopations, reminiscent of Brahms when cavorting in a gypsy mode. The Fine Arts players indulge in rubato and generous old-world slides Kreisler likely assumed would be a matter of course. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2012

Two world premiere recordings of music by the trio of great violinists who became household names in America during the first quarter of the 20th century. Of the three Efrem Zimbalist was the most colourful, having, with his famous soprano wife, Alma Gluck, a glittering New York social life. After her untimely death he married Mary Louise Curtis Bok, founder of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Though living his mature life in the United States, he was Ukrainian and a student of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the String Quartet from 1931 belonged to a previous generation, its roots in Borodin. A brief scherzo is placed second, before soulful Russian slow movement and a finger-knotting moto perpetuo in the finale. Fritz Kreisler, born in Vienna fifteen years earlier in 1875, was at one stage so diffident about his future as a violinist, he entered a school of medicine to follow in his father’s footsteps. It was in the United States that he first received acclaim, but while he enjoyed a major concert career, the world came to know him as the composer and performer of salon music. In many ways his quartet sounds outdated for its 1919 date, though it is a delightful and readily likeable score we should hear more often. Eugène Ysaÿe was a father figure to both, and was regarded as the greatest of them all. Experiencing problems with his bowing arm, he turned to composition, the Harmonies du soir—in which the Fine Arts Quartet is joined by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe—both in style and content, is akin to Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht. The Fine Arts Quartet are in excellent form throughout, and the sound quality is exemplary. A real discovery disc. © 2012 David’s Review Corner



Julian Haylock
BBC Music Magazine, February 2012

It was an inspired idea to programme music by three of the finest violinists of the last century…The Fine Arts Quartet rise with aplomb to its many interpretative and technical challenges, sustaining a glorious richness of tone, coupled with a portamento-inflected cantabile espressivo that sits hand in glove with the music’s Romantic opulence. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine



James Norris
Audiophilia, January 2012

The Quartets…are…well crafted and effective works with strong, meaty string sounds as you would expect from such players. The Fine Arts Quartet is on excellent form relishing the challenge and producing very polished performances. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review






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