Jiri Belohlavek is probably the finest interpreter of Martinu's music around at present - witness the excellent recordings he made for Chandos and the plethora of recordings on Supraphon of some fringe-repertoire Martinu, none of which ever sounds routine, and makes a fine case for a composer whose reputation is uneven.
This is the second installment in a projected complete cycle of the six Martinu symphonies, and it has been a long time coming - five years I believe between the first release and this - and is probably worth the wait! The recording of the 3rd and 4th symphonies Martinu - Syms.3 & 4
shows how firm a grip on Martinu Belohlavek has, but was criticised for a less than crystal clear sound quality (recording location?) and unfortunately, to my ears, this problem persists in the live version of the sublime 5th, presented here. I had not heard Belohlavek in this work before, and here it is presented as a big orchestral work, so the subtleties of the sound world are not always clear. The concert itself was obviously an occasion, and the Czech Philharmonic are one of the worlds' great orchestras - plenty of evidence of that here - but I like my Martinu as much for its detail as for its structure, and we get more of the latter here. A Fifth to hear, maybe not one to live with. I think I will stick to the clarity of Jarvi's version Martinu - Symphonies 5 & 6
or the glorious power of either of Karel Ancerl's versions Karel Ancerl Gold Edition Vol.34. Martinu - Symphonies Nos 5 & 6; Memorial to Lidice
, despite the sound limitations.
There is no such problem with the Sixth, one of the finest recordings I have heard. Details are clear and we can hear Belohlavek revelling in the unique sound-world this symphony inhabits. I would put this one alongside Ancerl's and Belohlavek's own recording on Chandos Janacek: Sinfonietta Op60; Martinu: Symphony No6
. I regret not having ever heard the recording uder the symphony's dedicatee, Charles Munch, another recording that has a fine reputation.