Fine Arts Quartet

Bruckner: String Quintet in F major; String Quartet in C minor

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Anton Bruckner's reputation primarily rests on his symphonies and masses, so the impression most listeners have of his music is that it is expansive in form, monumental in feeling, and profoundly edifying. Not so the small body of his chamber music, which is virtually unknown by general classical listeners and is sometimes overlooked as insignificant by Bruckner aficionados. The String Quintet in F major, the String Quartet in C minor, along with the shorter Intermezzo in D minor and the Rondo in C minor are of a typically Viennese character, marked by sentimentality and sweetness, and the moods are for the most part light and ingratiating, even when Bruckner engages in serious counterpoint in the manner of Beethoven's late string quartets. Yet as pleasant as these works are, they are still modest efforts that are somewhat lacking in the skillful repartee and distinctive part-writing that are essential to the genre, and homophonic textures dominate many passages. Furthermore, it's apparent that Bruckner had little affinity for composing easygoing or intimate chamber music, for the breadth and scale of his ideas required a much bigger medium. Still, these pieces reveal important aspects of his development, for in them are found many of the same harmonic innovations and thematic devices that are more fully realized in the symphonies. The Fine Arts Quartet and violist Gil Sharon have recorded fully sympathetic and technically exquisite performances, and their reading of the string quintet is clearly the most engaging and revelatory of this disc. Naxos provides warm and resonant sound, with reasonably close microphone placement.

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