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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have, 20 Nov 2011
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enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Martinu - Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
Here you get a first rate performance of the First Symphony. This may be a little superfluous these days as there is a fairly new and must have Belohlavek set of all six symphonies with the BBC SO. The account here is a powerful one for all that.

But the reason you have to find a way to buy this particular CD (the download is at bargain price) is for an extremely good account of one of the great masterpieces of the 20th Century - Martinu's Double Concerto. Why that work is not more commonly recorded I will never know (it is a perfect coupling for Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, for example) but I suspect that this account would be hard to beat - even if there were lots of competition. It just sweeps you away.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Mature Martinu, 16 Jun 2009
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Mr. A. R. Boyes "Alan Boyes" (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Martinu - Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
The double concerto is a great work but when performed by non Czech ensembles seems to be more light weight in the playing. Here the strings sound is rich and weighty, completely reflecting the mood of the piece, helped by a typically reverberant acoustic with the Czech Philharmonic. The work is in three movements that give no relief from a sense of urgency and foreboding. Written in 1938 this music displays a sense of foreboding for the coming war and the overrunning by the Nazis of Czechoslovakia music, a threat that Martinu was all too well aware of. There is humour and affability in much of his output but this work's tunnel vision really stands out. It's intensity suggests that it may have been written at some speed. This performance would take some beating.

The first movement has great forward propulsion mixing anxiety and determination. The slow second movement opens with a stoic sounding theme and gives way to more introspective music leading to a troubled climax. The Finale returns to the mood of the first before ending with the stoic theme of the central movement. This is very powerful music indeed and a worthy successor to Bartok's Music for Strings Percussion and celesta.

The symphony is given a very sympathetic performance though Belohlavek's more recent version with the BBC SO on Onyx is a more revelatory peroformance. By the time it was written, Martinu had fled to the USA and World War II was well under way. The symphony is in a very different spirit to the concerto; the first movement is expansive and lyrical and seems to be in a very free form. The scherzo is more tightly organised before the slow movement reflects on war, sounding like a monument to the dead, similar to his "Memorial to Lidice", before the finale provides a more upbeat conclusion. After the intensity of the concerto this more relaxed music makes a welcome foil.

In both works the Czech Philharmonic under Jiri Belohlavek are in fine form. There are other fine versions of both works but these are very good. Belohlavek's set of the Symphonies with the BBC SO is the one to beat this recording comes warmly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Martinu the Master, 28 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Martinu - Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
What a first symphony this is! True, Martinu was an experienced wrangler by the time he turned his hand to the genre. Even if the finale is not as inspired as the first three movements, Sibelius' First has a rival.

Perhaps the most notable feature of this stupendous work is the close of the opening movement: it is replete with big, fat `sunset' cadences; with the possible exception of the Alpine Symphony, there is no better depiction of the sun immolating itself on the horizon. There are also fewer apiarian references than usual (in comparison, the Fourth is a veritable beehive). Nor is it any wonder that Vaclav Neumann so adored the Largo: it is a noble utterance. The Double Concerto was written at the time of Munich and it encapsulates the zeitgeist unerringly: Europe is downcast with the advent of the Beast. In its nervous energy, it is hysteria incarnate. The Red Sea will not part.

It does not get any more authentic than this: what Berlin, Vienna or Dresden are to Bruckner, the Czech Philharmonic is to Martinu. Belohlavek is magisterial in this domain. The Chandos recording is in the best traditions of the house.

This bespeaks plenitude.
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Martinu - Orchestral Works
Martinu - Orchestral Works by Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (Audio CD - 1991)
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