Works by Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Husa, Shifrin, Bart—k, Hindemith & Martinon

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Brahms,Haydn,Hindemith & Martinon,Husa,Mozart,Shifrin,Works by Beethoven
LABELS: Music & Arts
ALBUM TITLE: The fine arts quartet at WFMT
WORKS: E flat Piano Quartet; Horn Quintet
PERFORMER: Fine Arts Quartet (Broadcast 1967-73)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1154
Some readers may fondly remember the Fine Arts Quartet’s much acclaimed Bartók cycle on LP. Inexplicably, other examples of this highly esteemed chamber group’s extensive discography have not been so widely available outside the United States; all the more intriguing, then, to hear this collection, drawn from recorded broadcasts they made for the Chicago based WFMT radio station between 1967 and 1973.

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In view of their excellent Bartók, it’s no surprise that the performances of 20th-century repertoire are especially convincing. Apart from a compelling rendition of Bartók’s Third Quartet, there’s a pugnacious account of Hindemith’s fine Third Quartet, and committed interpretations of specially commissioned works by Karel Husa, Seymour Shifrin and the conductor Jean Martinon. There is rather less Romantic music, though the Fine Arts deliver a warm and deeply felt performance of the Brahms A minor.

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Inevitably most of the discs focus on late 18th- and early 19th-century core repertory. Unfortunately the dry studio sound tends to undermine a sense of charm and elegance in three Mozart Quartets, while the three Beethoven Razumovsky Quartets, although technically brilliant, seem a little cold. Yet fruitful partnerships with John Browning in the Mozart E flat Piano Quartet and Barry Tuckwell in the same composer’s Horn Quintet, recorded before a live audience, suggest that the Fine Arts Quartet were capable of projecting a spontaneous sense of enjoyment while playing more familiar works. Erik Levi