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Robert Benson, July 2014

We are, once again, indebted to Naxos for their enterprise in recording unusual repertory. It is a gem! The brilliant pianist Christina Ortiz is sensitively accompanied by the Fine Arts Quartet…Wonderfully natural sound…this is a true winner in every way! © 2014 Read complete review

Guy Rickards
International Piano, December 2013

The Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz provide beautifully articulated accounts of both works…Naxos’ budget price is a definite plus. © 2013 International Piano

Tim Homfray
The Strad, November 2013

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…In the midst of a clean, snappy performance of the Poco allegro that follows, leader Ralph Evans launches into his cadenza with Romantic relish, complete with swooping portamentos. The last movement is long, and can sag, but the players hold the line convincingly. The Barcarolle, here in its piano quartet version, has a sensuous swing, punctuated with high-spirited string outbursts.

In the A minor Piano Quintet, the 20-year-old composer gave the pianist (himself) the lion’s share of the interesting material, and Ortiz rises splendidly to its challenges. The quartet plays with a beguiling lightness of touch when Saint-Saëns relaxes from his urgent grandeur, with some beautiful lyrical playing in the slow movement, particularly from violist Nicolò Eugelmi and cellist Robert Cohen. The players treat the opening fugue of the finale with tender loving care. © 2013 The Strad Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, September 2013

If you’re unfamiliar with these works, 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…

Very strongly recommended. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide, September 2013

…this new Naxos of the piano quartet is simply wonderful; it has all the best elements of the other recordings… The playing is smooth and rich. The tempos are a little broader than the others, which may not make it very French but certainly sounds wonderful to me. The phrasing is ideal…

This is a very recent American recording, and it belongs with the very best—as do the performances. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Christopher Dingle
BBC Music Magazine, September 2013

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

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 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… Cristina Ortiz’s piano, though light in touch, nevertheless assumes real power when she is called upon to do so. She also has a sure grasp of the piano’s role within each movement on this CD, which keeps her playing in perfect balance to the strings; and of course,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. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, June 2013

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. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

Geoffrey Norris
Gramophone, May 2013

The tightly worked counterpoint in the second movement of the B flat Piano Quartet exposes Saint-Saëns’s learned side but he also wears a broad smile that beams from this exuberant performance by the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz.

The A minor Piano Quintet[’s]…power, fertile ideas and scrupulous design…are both arresting and appealing. © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, April 2013

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. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2013

By the time of Camille Saint-Saëns’ death in 1921, the musical world had passed through a massive upheaval, his works gaining the unjust label of ‘confectionery’. In reality much of his output had more strength than his immediate contemporaries, the Piano Quartet and Quintets being particular examples, the latter dating back to 1855, when its harmonies would have been deemed quite modern. The piano part is nothing short of a virtuoso concerto, while the string writing is highly accomplished for the twenty-year-old composer, if at times its role is one of accompaniment. Certainly the pianist is more than justified in dominating the proceedings, Cristina Ortiz, establishing that fact in the opening bars. She then takes the third movement scherzo by the scruff of its neck and hurtles through it, just as the music requires to be brought to life, and if the finale does not contain the memorable material of the earlier movements, the work, as a whole, is certainly worth your acquaintance. The Quartet comes from twenty years later when he was working with the assured hand of a mature composer, and we hear the influences he was to pass to his pupil, Gabriel Faure. Integrating the piano to a far greater degree than in the Quintet, it still  remains a very challenging keyboard score, the impish scherzo coming in direct descent of Mendelssohn, while the finale—the works most extended movement—looks forward to the music of Brahms. Since their last Naxos recording, the Fine Arts Quartet have a new cello, Robert Cohen, remembered for his outstanding 1970’s recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. They sound very well as a new team, the record’s engineer offering plenty of inner detail. They sound very well as a new team, the record’s engineer offering plenty of inner detail. © David’s Review Corner

Europadisc, March 2013

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. © Europadisc

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