Milander Quartet

Brahms: Piano Quartets 1 & 3

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Though as a genre the piano quartet never achieved the same popularity as the piano trio, the addition of the viola to the mix rounds out the string range and allows for a more robust, almost symphonic treatment of the ensemble. Few composers better exemplify this large-scale vision for a chamber ensemble better than Johannes Brahms. His three contributions to the literature represent some of the high points of the composer's younger works, as well as some of the most intense, sweeping music in the piano chamber music repertoire. This Avie disc features the First and Third quartets -- both dark, tragic works cast in minor keys -- performed by the Milander Quartet. As a young ensemble, the Milander Quartet shows promise in many areas. It clearly involves talented performers, and on the whole their interpretations nicely balance vigor with solemnity. There are some less favorable characteristics to their playing, however. For one, the Milanders seem not to have yet found a unified, well-blended tone. The first violin tends to be much brighter and harsh-sounding than the other two strings, whose sound is sometimes lost in the balance. The piano's tone, by contrast, is dark, clear, and precise throughout. The strings also display some difficulty playing precisely in tune -- especially in unison sections -- and exactly matching articulation.

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