Aurora Quartett

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Mare Review

by James Manheim

The Aurora Quartett is not a string quartet but a quartet of pianists, playing two pianos. As the group points out, this configuration falls into an unbroken tradition going back to Liszt's time. It's also one that has grown in popularity in recent years, and additions to the four-pianist repertoire, such as the three contemporary Scandinavian works heard here, are thus doubly welcome. The most immediately enjoyable work on the program is the set of Grotesques and Arabesques of Norway's Trygve Madsen. The title doesn't quite communicate the work's flavor, but the movement titles do: "Dmitri," "Maurice," "Richard and Arnold," "Claude," and "Sergej" have their styles faithfully imitated but tweaked in a familiar way. The first movement is a scampering rendition of the ebullient Shostakovich style of such works as the Piano Concerto No. 2. Less humorous but more imaginative in terms of using the palette of sounds available in this medium are the two works by Dutch-Norwegian composer Wolfgang Plagge, and here the superb Super Audio sound of the 2L label comes into play; as heard on a good conventional stereo, the details of this impressionistic score (and its more strictly structured companion, the Concerto Grosso) come through with startling clarity. The only mild disappointment is the Boogie Retention of Bjorn Kruse, which "retains" little of what it claims to. Thoroughly recommended to the fans who flock to duo-piano concerts, and also to those with fine audio equipment they wish to challenge.

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