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Beethoven, “Dialogues” performed by Duo Stephanie and Saar (New Focus Recordings). The idea behind this high-minded disc had potential. Duo Stephani and Saar, playing four-hand piano, give us three of Beethoven’s early-period string quartets Op. 18 – No. 1, No. 4 and No. 6. I love anything arranged for piano. It can always be counted on to bring out new things in the music. And it’s heartwarming how this disc’s creators pay homage to the lead of visionary teachers including Karl Ulrich Schnabel and Leon Fleisher. Listening to the music, though, I was a little disappointed. On the one hand the novelty was there – I could barely recognize the music, even though I’ve heard the quartets a lot and paid close attention to them. On the other hand, the music sounded mechanical. It worked as a kind of exercise, but you get no sense that it is living and breathing the way you get when you hear a string quartet play it. Whether that’s the fault of the arrangers (Hugo Ulrich and Robert Wittmann) or the performers, or whether the quartets just don’t work on the piano, I’m not sure. Playing the string quartets as collaborative piano pieces does sound like an avenue worth exploring. ΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)