Artis Ensemble Stuttgart

Piano Quartets by Paul Juon & Antonín Dvorák

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The first piano quartets of Paul Juon and Antonin Dvorák (each composer wrote two in this genre) share the unfortunate distinction of being relatively unknown works. In the case of Juon, this obstacle holds regrettably true for most of his works; Juon's compositions are just now starting to be appreciated. For Dvorák, the immense success and popularity of his Second Piano Quartet in E flat major has greatly overshadowed his earlier effort. Still, both of these works are quality compositions and deserving of attention and strong performances. Given the rather impressive educational pedigrees of the members of the Artis Piano Quartet, such a performance would seem to be a given. However, this album proves to be a prime example of why putting a group of accomplished musicians together in an ensemble does not automatically yield good chamber music. The most immediately noticeable and pervasive problem on this disc is intonation; the three string players simply have an impossible time playing in tune with one another, and the higher the tessitura, the more painful listening becomes. Individual string solos, such as the beginning statements in both quartets, are generally more acceptable and seem relatively in tune against the piano. But the instant the strings must play together, the entire performance is untenable and the entire album is one to pass up.

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