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Customer Review

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First choice, 1 July 2011
This review is from: Martinu: The Six Symphonies [GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2012] (Audio CD)
The Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek first recorded a Martinu Symphony over thirty years ago, and has recorded all of them except the Second before these recordings made during the celebrations in 2009/10, in some cases several times. These performances show the results of a lifetime dedication to the composer, and also of his work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra over his years as chief conductor. The recorded sound is fine - these are live performances but there is no sign of audience noise. As a complete set of symphonies it easily takes first place. There are individual performances from earlier periods on CD by conductors such as Ancerl, Munch and Turnovsky which hold their place, and always will, but amongst more recent issues these performances are not only unbeatable as a set but also in the case of the individual symphonies. It is interesting to compare the performances with those by the Czech Philharmonic with the same conductor, and that set, from Supraphon, should soon be complete also. Martinu had himself been a member of the Czech orchestra, who sometimes show particular insight into a phrase or aspect of balance, but the BBC orchestra in these performance on Onyx seem to win on enthusiasm and, surprisingly, in some places also on virtuosity.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jul 2011 20:46:55 BDT
J Pabst says:
Many thanks for your review, Kevin. Could you say something about the set's packaging? Is it a cheap Brilliant-Classics-style digipack?

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jul 2011 21:00:40 BDT
Precession says:
Cardboard folder which opens out into four square panels in a line - the first holds the booklet of notes, and the others one CD each, which pop out when the circle in the centre is pressed. Maybe not the best packaging, but not the worst either, and no plastic tines to crack as in so many CD boxes.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jul 2011 19:26:31 BDT
Thanks. I'll buy it. It'll complement my Supraphon set, which is of course only 66% complete!

Posted on 13 Aug 2011 11:24:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Aug 2011 11:26:03 BDT
Steve says:
I wonder if someone could comment specifically on the sound quality. I have just heard excerpts on BBC Radio 3 and the performances (the bits played) were gripping. But I don't like the Barbican acoustic- very dry. Most of the LSO Live series I find are let down terribly by the close-miked recordings in this acoustic. My current favourite of the Martinu symphonies is Ancerl on Supraphon, nice spacious sound. So, any views on the sound quality of these new recordings?

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Aug 2011 12:12:24 BDT
Precession says:
As you say, Steve, the Barbican acoustic is difficult, but in this case the recordings have come out very well - Onyx and the BBC seem to have been able to handle it better than the LSO recordings do. They are quite close, but I would agree with the assessment given on the radio a few minutes ago by Rob Cowan that the recordings are excellent, and indeed one is being broadcast at this minute! As you write, the performances conducted by Karel Ančerl are wonderful, something very special, and the Czech orchestra in those years even better than the BBCSO is now - but Supraphon recorded only 5 and 6 with Ančerl conducting, good mono sound for the mid-fifties, but the recorded sound for the radio recordings of 1,3 and 5 from Multisonic is very rough even though they are from a bit later. Ančerl never conducted Symphony No 4 at all, but his student Martin Turnovskż did a very good version with the Czech PO while Ančerl was still head of it, good 1960s stereo Supraphon now available on a cheap Warner Apex CD. Ančerl performed Symphony No 2 only once, with the Czech PO at Maida Vale in London in the 1960s - this was recorded, but is not included in the Multisonic issue and a copy is hard to locate. (info from website http://www.karel-ancerl.com/)

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Aug 2011 13:44:15 BDT
Steve says:
Many thanks for the observations on the recording quality. The BBC I know do a better job than LSO Live (more space); I really was impressed bywhat i heard of this set and am going ahead and buying it (although not at Amazon's price - a Midlands supplier is much cheaper). The Martinu symphonies really do repay revisiting! Kind regards, Steve.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Aug 2011 15:40:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Aug 2011 15:41:04 BDT
This information came from Onyx themselves. In my opinion the sound quality is astonishingly good and far better than the (compressed) sound necessarily broadcast originally.:
The BBC engineers cleaned up as much noise as possible during the perfromances themselves, and added some suitable general warming up of the notoriously dry Barbican acoustic. ONYX went one stage further and had removed (at Abbey Road) the applause as we did not feel it was consistent and in general we know most buyers prefer not to have it. In the couple of cases where applause overlaps the decay of the reverberation, it is possible to recreate that reverberation with one of the sophisticated reverb programmes on the market. I don't know the exact programme we used for this but any engineer worth his salt will know how to do this.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Nov 2012 22:27:21 GMT
Yes !! They sound MUCH better than the Barbican issues. The sound is probably one of the very best you ever heard.
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