Ames Piano Quartet

Le Muerte del Ángel

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With the exception of Piazzolla (and possibly Turina if you're being optimistic), the composers' names on this album of piano quartets are likely unknown. Curiously, the album's title (La Muerte del Ángel) comes from the composition -- Piazzolla's -- that was not originally written for piano quartet. The quartets of Turina, Tansman, and Surinach were each written in the first half of the twentieth century, yet share in common an affinity for bygone eras; Turina's and Surinach's works are written very much in the Romantic tradition, while Tansman was obviously very influenced by neo-classicism. Performed by the Ames Piano Quartet -- one of the few ensembles exclusively devoted to the genre -- these works remain a difficult sell. This is largely due to the performances themselves. The Ames Quartet vacillates between moments of beautiful, well-played instrumental solos and periods of intense intonation difficulties when all four members are playing together. What makes matters worse for Turina, Tansman, and Surinach is a distinct lack of direction in the Ames Quartet's playing; the interpretation is quite vertical, lacking in long lines and phrases, leaving listeners to fend for themselves as they try to navigate these unfamiliar compositions. This album may be worthwhile to listeners who truly like exploring new works, but for most, it's probably one to skip.

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