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Terry Robbins

The WholeNote, September 2022

Every now and then a CD comes along of such stunning quality that it almost leaves you speechless. Such is the case with Avant l’orage – French String Trios 1926–1939, a 2CD set priced as a single disc, featuring seven beautifully crafted works, mostly by composers who aren’t household names, in simply superb performances by the Chicago-based Black Oak Ensemble of violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, violist Aurélien Fort Pederzoli and cellist David Cunliffe.

All seven works are high quality and extremely attractive, and it’s hard to imagine their ever being played better – or with better recorded sound, for that matter. © 2022 The WholeNote Read complete review

Raymond Tuttle


Fanfare, November 2022

The musicians of the Black Oak Ensemble have an excellent grasp on the style of playing required by these works.

For me, there are two joys associated with writing about music for Fanfare, and with hearing it in general. The first is hearing music I know, or that I think I know, being made new by a different performer. The second is discovering music that I did not know at all, and that is the chief joy that I received from Avant l’orage. It will be on my Want List in this issue. © 2022 Fanfare Read complete review


Phillip Scott

Fanfare, November 2022

The obvious qualities of this recording are the interest of the undeservedly obscure works, and brilliant performances by the Black Oak Ensemble. Alongside violist Pederzoli, the other members of the ensemble are violinist Desirée Ruhstrat and cellist David Cunliffe. Add to that Cedille’s close but warm sound, and the result is a uniquely special treat. © 2022 Fanfare Read complete review


James A. Altena

Fanfare, November 2022

All aspects of technical execution, ranging from intonation to bowing to rhythm and tonal production, are spot on. Even more importantly, the players fully inhabit the spirit of whatever work they are playing at the moment, performing each one with as ardent a flame as if they had written it themselves. …Every chamber-music aficionado should be eager to add to his or her collection. Top recommendation. © 2022 Fanfare Read complete review


Michael De Sapio

Fanfare, November 2022

String trio compositions are perhaps less plentiful, and the Black Oak has given us back several of them. …The concept is serious and coherent, and it’s worthwhile to sample these works from a particular slice of time which were the property of a historic ensemble.

Recommended at least for the Cras and Pierné, and for the chance to hear string trio playing of great technical accomplishment and imagination. © 2022 Fanfare Read complete review

Michelle Thomson

American Record Guide, November 2022

This a brilliant set, made all the greater in that it contains exclusively all-but-unknown music.

The Black Oak Ensemble—Desiree Ruhstrat, Aurelian Fort Pederzoli, and David Cunliffe—have outdone themselves here. © 2022 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Michael Quinn

Limelight, September 2022

French string trio rarities persuasively reclaimed from neglect.

The French described the period as “les années folles” (the crazy years) and there is more than a hint of that delirium here even as ominous gathering clouds cast a thickening pall over these often charming and vivacious works. Their neglect in recent years is redeemed by the characterful championing of the Chicago-based Black Oak Ensemble. © 2022 Limelight Read complete review

Textura, September 2022

Black Oak Ensemble delivers consummate performances throughout, the members’ playing precise and their focus unwavering. The balance between the players is superb, and the clear separation between the instruments adds considerably to the pleasure the release affords. © 2022 Textura Read complete review

David Vernier, August 2022

String Trios That Endure, Enlighten

This is difficult, challenging music that requires not only a comprehensive, deeply felt sense of style and prodigious technical facility, but an understanding of how to differentiate the expressive demands of a collection of pieces that are in some ways similar, but in more ways quite different, and how as an ensemble to make each stand out and stand in its own deserving space. Not only does the Black Oak Ensemble achieve this, but their effort makes you more than eager to hear the whole thing again. …Highly recommended. © 2022 Read complete review, August 2022

The seven pieces played by the top-notch Black Oak Ensemble on a very well-priced new Cedille release are all well-wrought, smooth, intermittently delightful trifles, finely crafted and serving well…

All the music offered in this recording is performed with considerable skill and apparent enjoyment…that is abundantly entertaining. © 2022 Read complete review

Stephen Greenbank

MusicWeb International, August 2022

These attractive scores have happily found most sympathetic advocates in the Black Oak Ensemble, who play with supreme musicianship, enthusiasm and commitment. With production standards and excellent documentation flying high, this Cedille release can be recommended with the greatest possible enthusiasm. © 2022 MusicWeb InternationalRead complete review


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