Ames Piano Quartet

Mozart, Hummel, Beethoven: Piano Quartets

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While the great E flat major and G minor piano quartets of Mozart are generally recognized as the works that standardized the genre and inspired generations of composers to write quartets well into the Romantic era, they were not the only examples written at the time, nor are they the only piano quartets to bear Mozart's name. The K. 452 Wind Quintet -- one of Mozart's favored compositions -- was later transcribed for piano quartet, although who exactly went about doing his is unclear. Mozart's student Johann Hummel also wrote an unusually cast two-movement piano quartet, and Beethoven transcribed his own wind quintet -- which is formally quite similar to Mozart's -- for piano quartet. These contributions to the literature, while perhaps not of the same caliber of Mozart's original works for piano quartet, still deserve attention. The Ames Piano Quartet, one of the few standing ensembles of its kind, performs these three compositions on this Dorian album. Despite a long-term relationship playing together, this recording does not find the Ames at its best. For early classical pieces, the playing comes across as surprisingly heavy and plodding instead of crisp, bright, and energetic. Both intonation and articulation between the three string players are lacking in refinement and attention to nuance. Although their attempts to introduce listeners to the full extent of their ensemble's repertoire is admirable, this particular attempt falls short of being a broadly appealing album.

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