Eaken Piano Trio / Joseph Esmilla

Eaken Trio + 1

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The Schumann E flat Piano Quartet and the Brahms G minor Piano Quartet, written nearly two decades apart, are both substantial, weighty, and dense compositions both musically and texturally. They pose significant technical challenges to the ensembles that take them on, and the Brahms in particular offers additional difficulties in balancing the four parts due to its thick part-writing. Unfortunately for the Philadelphia-based Eaken Piano Trio and violist Joseph Esmilla, these demands exceed the capabilities of the ensemble. From a technical point of view, the piano part is fraught with missed and wrong notes, intonation between the violin and viola is strained at its very best, and articulation between the four members is a free-for-all. What's worse is the album's sound quality. The liner notes make reference to the performances being recorded in someone's home, certainly not the ideal location to produce a quality recording. Forte sections in both quartets are a wash of indecipherable sound; the strings have a distinctly distant and metallic timbre, and the overall sound quality is more akin to a recording made in the 1940s than one from the 21st century. These cornerstones of the piano quartet literature certainly deserve better treatment than this, and listeners absolutely deserve high quality performances.

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