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FRANCK, C.: String Quartet in D Major / Piano Quintet in F Minor (Ortiz, Fine Arts Quartet)

Naxos 8.572009

   Gramophone Classical Music Guide, December 2012
   Penguin Guide, December 2011
   Classic FM, May 2010
   The Jordan Times, March 2010
   Otago Daily Times, March 2010, March 2010
   Gramophone, February 2010
   Gramophone, February 2010
   La Folia, February 2010, January 2010
   Audiophile Audition, January 2010
   The Strad, January 2010
   International Record Review, January 2010, January 2010
   BBC Music Magazine, December 2009, November 2009
   David's Review Corner, November 2009
   Musical Pointers, October 2009

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Gramophone Classical Music Guide, December 2012

Ortiz and her colleagues realise all of Franck’s pent-up feeling in a performance of a special musical refinement and commitment…The Fine Arts Quartet are entirely at home in the very different scope of the String Quartet, relishing both the music’s contrapuntal intricacy and its full-blown romanticism. © 2012 Gramophone Classical Music Guide

Penguin Guide, December 2011

Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet couple two major chamber works and give very fine accounts of both masterpieces. They have ardour and finesse in equal measure. © 2011 Penguin Guide

Philip Clark
Classic FM, May 2010

Cristina Ortiz and the FAQ map out the structural flow lucidly while generating sounds of great refinement…the FAQ makes it blossom like never before.

Jean-Claude Elias
The Jordan Times, March 2010

Naxos has added another milestone recording to its already prestigious catalogue of great classical works. The CD that presents the string quartet in D major and the piano quintet in F minor by Cesar Franck and that has been published by Naxos constitutes a recording of exceptional quality, technically and artistically…There are several recordings of the same pieces by Cesar Franck, yet this new one clearly stands out. With it, and chiefly thanks to the superlative interpretation of the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz, Naxos has succeeded one more time in producing another reference classical CD. The interpretation of the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz is immaculate…The clarity of the musicians’ performance greatly helps the listener to overcome the inherent difficulty of Francks’s music and therefore to fully appreciate its beauty. The music is difficult to play as much as it is difficult to listen to, but the result is a rewarding, uplifting experience. There is intense emotional range in the sound, perfectly channelled by the musicians.

Geoff Adams
Otago Daily Times, March 2010

The Fine Arts Quartet goes back 64 years since its birth in Chicago. Since 1985 it has recorded more than 65 works. Three of its members have been with the group for over a quarter of a century and this rapport clearly shows in their performances…Highlight: charismatic Brazilian pianist adds a charge to the Quintet.

Robert R. Reilly, March 2010

I must mention the Fine Arts Quartet CD featuring the Cesar Franck (1822–1890) String Quartet and the Piano Quintet, with pianist Cristina Ortiz. Naxos seems to be using the Fine Arts Quartet to go over some repertory staples. This is very good news. (I was deeply impressed by their performances of the complete Schumann string quartets and the Bruckner quintet released earlier.) With the Franck works, we enter deeply into the emotionally turbulent world of Romanticism…Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet infuse these works with the passion they require. Fasten your seatbelts.

James Invernes
Gramophone, February 2010

Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet pinpoint the work’s [Quintet’s] volatility, with Ortiz throwing herself into the work’s demands. The quartet is excellent, too. Altogether a fine recording of works that are still done less than they should be.

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, February 2010

They realize all of Franck’s pent-up feeling in a performance of special musical refinement and commitment

This outstanding disc of two of Franck’s late masterpieces features the Fine Arts Quartet with Cristina Ortiz in the Piano Quintet, a work she first recorded for EMI with the Medici Quartet (8178R). Since that time she has broadened and clarified her reading of music so turbulent and rawly emotional that it offended Liszt’s notion of chamber music, Saint-Saëns’s sense of musical decorum and, perhaps more understandably, Franck’s wife who knew that such an outpouring was hardly inspired by her own comfortable and domestic nature. At all events Franck hurled his Pater Seraphicus image aside in one of music’s most blazing and unsettling utterances. Ortiz and her colleagues realize all of Franck’s pent-up feeling in a performance of a special musical refinement and commitment, while hardly aiming at the emotional vortex achieved by Clifford Curzon and the Amadeus Quartet on their inimitable BBC Legends disc (5/01). The Fine Arts Quartet, too, are entirely at home in the very different scope of the String Quartet, relishing both the music’s contrapuntal intricacy and its full-blown romanticism. They are notably successful in the second movement’s hallucinatory, stop-go flight; almost as if Mendelssohn’s fairy-tale scherzos had become darkened with unease. Naxos’s sound is less than ideal in the Quartet but is beautifully and realistically balanced in the Quintet. I shall look forward to more exceptional music-making from this team.

Dan Davis
La Folia, February 2010

Naxos scores again with Ortiz and the Fine Arts’ performances of Franck’s major chamber pieces…Franck requires a bigger, bolder approach than Fauré’s equally complex but more subdued style and Ortiz and her colleagues are fully up to it, their leaner textures in the Fauré works here morphing into a riper, blooming sound appropriate to the required emotional fireworks.

Robin Friedman, January 2010

GRANDLY ROMANTIC READINGS OF FRANCK’S QUINTET AND QUARTET. Both the Quintet and the Quartet receive impassioned performances on this new Naxos CD with the Fine Arts Quartet and pianist Christina Ortiz…this CD has a sweeping unabashedly passionate character that sets it apart. This is romantic music played with conviction, emotion, and contrast in long searing vibrato-filled phrases. The music drew me in at the outset and never let go…The quartet and Ortiz play with unrestrained feeling…This reading by the Fine Arts Quartet and Ortiz compels the listener to hear the passion without the potential distraction of the form…With this beautiful recording, the Fine Arts Quartet and Ortiz show intimate music-making at its best.

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, January 2010

Recorded in Switzerland, the engineering is excellent, with silky string tone.

Julian Haylock
The Strad, January 2010

In the Quartet, the Fine Arts players strike a near-ideal balance between Romantic espressivo and Classical restraint. The bustling scherzo’s post-‘Rasumovsky’ gesturing is dispatched with a feather-light touch, while the finale’s thematic déjà vu is integrated into the music’s overall structure with compelling inevitability. Franck’s chromatic harmonic profiles have caused intonational havoc with some ensembles in the past, but the Fine Arts musicians sustain a remarkable degree of corporate tonal accuracy in both works. In the Quintet they are joined by the gifted Brazilian virtuoso Cristina Ortiz to stunning effect. In a work notorious for being overburdened with strenuous passion, this team works wonders in clarifying Franck’s occasionally overheated textures, enhanced by engineering of exemplary lucidity and presence.

Mark Tanner
International Record Review, January 2010

The FAQ makes an excellent job…A thoroughly coherent piece of ensemble playing…Ortiz shares some exquisite moments among her companions…the recording…preserves a sense of spontaneity while capturing the piano’s bass and upper treble notes superbly.

Uncle Dave Lewis, January 2010

This Naxos disc…revisits a combination of experienced and beloved artists that served Naxos well on a previous outing in chamber works of Gabriel Fauré, Brazilian pianist Cristina Ortiz, and the Fine Arts Quartet. This outing makes a very effective case for both works…they concentrate on keeping the level of quality of musicianship very high…These are seminally important late romantic works, and the performance they get from these dedicated and skilled players commends itself.

Christopher Dingle
BBC Music Magazine, December 2009

The FAQ bring a warm tone to the work, and there are some wonderfully idiomatic portamento sighs. They are at their very best in the slow movements, with Cristina Ortiz matching their ebb and flow perfectly in the Quintet.

P.S. Boswell, November 2009

Heady stuff…top rating

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2009

These works make the perfect Cesar Franck coupling, the darkly dramatic qualities of the Quintet complementing the intense nature of the Quartet. Both came from the second and most distinguished half of his life, the Quartet a score of academic rectitude in its shape and content. Yet it emerges as an impassioned statement that marries all that was laudable in Germanic and French music at the time. The opening movement is intense in its outpouring; the scherzo brings the impishness of Mendelssohn, while the third movement Larghetto is full of sadness conveyed in a powerful utterance. That strength continues through to the finale, where once again we find sadness. It receives a robust account from the Fine Arts Quartet with the new violist, Yuri Gandelsman. They are joined by the charismatic Brazilian pianist, Cristina Ortiz in the Quintet, her presence making this a very highly charged reading. Always outgoing in her musicianship, she never draws back from a dominating role, and has certainly inspired the quartet who give the finest recorded performance I have heard from them. If the big ending to the opening movement is thrilling, there are also moments of wistful tenderness, while choice of tempos are mostly slanted towards urgency. The finale—the work’s shortest movement—is as potent and life enhancing as any performance you will encounter. I am not overly enthusiastic about the tone of the piano in this Swiss recording, but you soon forget it in such inspired playing, and the string sound is admirable.

Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers, October 2009

Cesar Franck’s Piano Quintet receives here the best recorded account I have known, superbly balanced and with a rare “rightness” of feeling. Here’s a reminder that “youth” isn’t everything and that maturity has a lot to offer. The venerable Fine Arts Quartet (three of them have played together for twenty-five years) bring the fruits of experience and Cristina Ortiz is their ideal collaborator; hear them together also in Fauré’s Piano Quintets [8.570938]. Played second (recommended) the three-quarter hour string quartet is given a great performance here; paced with discretion, maintaining pulse and flow without short-term point making, it emerges as one of the great string quartets and a vindication of Franck’s cyclical composing method…At Naxos price, don’t let it slip by.

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