The Fine Arts Quartet's 14th recording for Naxos is released this month. It adds to a collection of discs showcasing their versatility and virtuosity in interpretations of music from Beethoven and Bruckner to Saint-Saëns and Schumann. This latest release features clarinet quintets by two American composers, Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) and David Del Tredici (b. 1937). The Fine Arts Quartet is joined on this recording by the French clarinetist, Michel Lethiec.
“When I first became acquainted with the scores of Bernard Herrmann’s Souvenirs de voyage and David Del Tredici’s Magyar Madness, I was struck by how much these seductive quintets had in common, despite being completely different in mood and style. Both of these compelling works were written for string quartet plus clarinet by distinguished American composers who were pioneers in the Neo-Romantic movement, and both wistfully evoke the spirit of diverse European cultures. They seemed to be the ideal, odd couple. And Magyar Madness would be a world première release, to boot, so I felt they just had to be recorded together.”
– Ralph Evans, Fine Arts Quartet
Listen to an extract from Herrmann's Souvenirs de voyage:
I. Lento: Molto tranquillo
The Fine Arts Quartet ranks among the most distinguished ensembles in chamber music today, with an illustrious history of performing success and an extensive recording legacy. Founded in Chicago in 1946, and based at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 1963, the quartet is one of the elite few to have recorded and toured internationally for over half a century. Each season, Ralph Evans and Efim Boico (who have been playing together for over thirty years), Juan-Miguel Hernandez and Robert Cohen perform worldwide. The Fine Arts Quartet has recorded over 200 works.
Clarinetist Michel Lethiec has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician with the most eminent performers and the most famous orchestras. Devoted to contemporary music, he has premièred works by many composers, including Penderecki, Corigliano, Denisov, Maratka, Ballif, Landowski, Decoust, Fourchotte, Scolai, Narita, Brotons, Giraud and Lee. He teaches at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris and the Nice Conservatoire. He is artistic director of the Festival Pablo Casals in Prades, and is Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite and of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres.
“Ideally balanced and recorded, Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet offer performances that are warmly affectionate, fluent and musicianly to the core ... these are outstanding readings.”
“A gripping performance of Saint-Saëns’s Piano Quartet, sparkling account of the early Piano Quintet and sublime Barcarolle make a superlative disc from the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz.”
– BBC Music Magazine
“This is an interesting and intelligently planned recital mixing the unknown with the well known…the performances of the Fine Arts Quartet are full-blooded and very committed.”
– MusicWeb International
“I imagine that [Ysaÿe's Harmonies du soir] 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.”
– American Record Guide
“If you have not made the acquaintance of these works before, there is no excuse for not indulging now ... they are interesting and rewarding, played immaculately and in fine sound.”
– Audiophile Audition ★★★★
“... there is nothing dull about the Fine Arts’ playing. Excellently balanced and recorded, they bring fervour and commitment to music which will cause many listeners to reconsider Saint-Saëns’s musical standing.”
“The performances reveal the huge variety of musical expression in these works, the shifts in character, the often surprising interplay of parts, and the wealth of instrumental color.”
– American Record Guide