Feb. 17 Amara Piano Quartet performance will feature new work

Cornell College will host the Amara Piano Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, in a performance of both a new work commissioned especially for the quartet and an “unjustly neglected” 1910 piece they found while researching quartet music.

Amara Piano Quartet
Amara Piano Quartet

Their appearance in King Chapel is the final concert in Cornell’s 2019-20 Music Mondays series. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Amara is the successor to the Ames Piano Quartet, which performed for 36 years in residence at Iowa State University. Upon the retirement of two of its original members in 2012, the quartet was renamed Amara, connoting mythic paradise in Abyssinian.

Its program for Feb. 17 will feature a new commission for the Amara by George Tsontakis, his Piano Quartet No. 4. They will also perform Frank Bridge’s neglected 1910 “Phantasy,” as well as the Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 45, by Gabriel Fauré.

Since its inception, the Amara Piano Quartet has shown a deep commitment to performing new music as well as researching little-known gems such as the “Phantasy.” 

One of its earliest projects was a concert of Tsontakis’ chamber works, for which the composer traveled to Iowa. This led to the quartet’s premiere recording of Tsontakis’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in 2016. Also featured on that disc are 20th and 21st-century American pieces by Paul Schoenfield, Walter Piston, and Lee Hoiby (commissioned for the Ames Piano Quartet).

Gramophone magazine described the performances as “play[ed] with vibrant and sensitive expressivity,” and “invest[ed] with exceptional commitment and polish.” The American Record Guide describes the Amara’s performances as “played with striking intensity,” while Fanfare variously describes them as “stellar, “compelling,” and notes that “the players’ control of their instruments at lowest dynamic is remarkable.”