Ames Piano Quartet

Complete Dorian Recordings 1989-2009

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While piano trios abound and string quartets are a dime a dozen, what's rare are extant, long-standing piano quartets. Compared to the former two ensembles, repertoire for the latter is less abundant but no less significant. Piano quartets are often performed by piano trios who add a viola or string quartets that sit out a member and add a pianist. The result, however, is a temporary ensemble that lacks the benefits of performing long term with the same musicians. The Ames Piano Quartet proves that not only can a piano quartet exist as its own entity, but that it can thrive. Originally formed in 1976 at the University of Iowa and now faculty artists at Iowa State University, the Ames Piano Quartet has made a name for itself as skilled interpreters of the standard popular repertoire as well as champions of new and lesser known works. The present eight-disc collection showcases the recordings the group made on the Dorian label from 1989 through 2009. Listeners will enjoy stunning, thoughtful interpretations of warhorses of the repertoire like the three Brahms quartets, two from Dvorák, and quartets from Schumann, Fauré, and Strauss, as well as enlightening performances of rarely performed quartets by Suk, Martinu, and Widor. Taken from recordings made across two decades, there is an understandable variability in recorded sound quality from disc to disc, and the Ames does not have the most spotless intonation in the world. What it does have that many others lack is a clear, singular, unified vision of the score. Every articulation, every phrase, every dynamic, and every nuance is perfectly matched across the four members. Balance within the ensemble is also pleasantly fluid, shifting to allow the melody to come to the fore without obscuring the inner voices. Adding to its polished playing and far-reaching repertoire is a very informative and well-written set of liner notes that make this collection one well worth checking out.

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