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Martinu: Piano Concertos 1 (Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 5/ Concertino) CD

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  • Martinu: Piano Concertos 1 (Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 5/ Concertino)
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Product details

  • Conductor: Fagen
  • Composer: Martinu
  • Audio CD (4 Jan. 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B002WEC708
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 163,763 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

Giorgio Koukl, piano - Orchestre Philharmonique Bohuslav Martinu - Arthur Fagen, direction


''In Koukl, Naxos has chosen well… This is an auspicious debut [and] extremely well played. Koukl is aided by recording quality generally of a high standard… and by an orchestral partnership under Arthur Fagen (who has recorded Martinu's Symphonies for teh label) that is - especially in the more intricate Fifth concerto - generally first class.'' --International Record Review

Buoyant and exuberant performances… Koukl receives splendid support [from the orchestra] under Arthur Fagen and Naxos's sound is first rate, clear and bright with the right balance between soloist and orchestra. Warmly recommended.'' EDITOR'S CHOICE -- --Gramophone

Goirgio Koukl understands the ebb and flow of these volatile works well and is certainly up to their technical demands.His strong sense of line is particularly impressive in the faster movements. Performance **** Recording *** --BBC Music Magazine,Oct 2010

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One composer famously said of Vivaldi that he didn't write 500 hundred concertos; he wrote one concerto 500 times. Martinu only wrote 28 but sometimes it seems like more. It is probably not unfair to say that most have a great deal in common - the sweet, folky melodies, the same cadences at key points, neo baroque structures, a full orchestral sound pitted against or with the soloists. Lyricism combined with enough dissonance tuttis to give to spice them up. If you've never heard any then you may wonder where to start. This disc is a good place. I'd also recommend checking out his great Concerto for Piano, Double String Orchestra and Timpani and also his excellent Double Piano Concerto.

Luckily these three concertos offer something different to each other - the Concertino is, as you might expect a touch lighter than the other two reflecting his time in Paris. This is quirky and upbeat music sounding more youthful than the other works. It is also the least substantial or memorable.

The Third is a weighty piece with the large orchestra. Martinu was trying to convey the spirit of brahms in this concerto with the soloist and orchestra often playing separately rather than together. It is weighty almost to the point of being symphonic in outlook. It repays repeated hearings and is a work of his high maturity of the 1940s. It is an impressive work perhaps played a little too slowly and deliberately to emphasise its more neo classical credentials. Giorgio Koukl's playing is, however, excellent and very luminous in sound. That last quality really comes into its own in the final concerto.

Number five is not such a well known piece but God knows why. Like other late works it carries the word "Fantasy" in its title. It sounds almost improvisatory at times.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good performances of marvellous music 9 May 2010
By Bert vanC Bailey - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Bohuslav Martinü composed at least fifteen works for piano and orchestra by my count, and all of them deserve more attention. Nor has his fame lived up to the high quality of his large output in all musical areas. I would run to any live Martinü performance, yet can count those I've attended on one hand ...and have fingers to spare. Let's hope this new series helps change that.

His music's rhythmic convolutions and frequent, often unexpected, changes in tempo can challenge first-time listeners. Interpreters who avoid sounding drab and can draw the real goods out of this rather quirky music have a firm grasp of this. An unusual, rather eerie beauty also often emerges from Martinü's slow movements, and, given those wayward tempos, from slow passages within the faster ones. His best interpreters, again, deliver this with subtle texturing and a strong dynamic sense. In short, it's easy for artists to get his music wrong, and to noodle through what abler hands can turn into delightful, sometimes transfixing music.

This CD will be appraised through the prism of the closing Allegro of the 1938 Concertino - only one of its nine movements, but a microcosm of the recording.

The orchestra under Fagen handles several surging passages (e.g. 4:30-5:01) very capably, along with various Martinüesque changes in tempo and rhythm (such as at 4:05-4:10), although some orchestral dragging and a lack of synchrony also occasionally show (5:02-5:07). The movement is launched forcefully, but the ensemble seems to lose focus and come under some strain around 1:17 to 1:20. The BMPO supports Koukl with nicely-shaped flourishes when he takes the spotlight (1:47-3:28), but the winds sound only partly engaged - particularly an oboe's perfunctorily-delivered refrain (3:29-3:32) in a musical plateau between two rousing passages.

The movement is well-spurred into a surging gallop from 4:56 to 5:12, yet some rhythmic tripping occurs between the timpani, whose beat redoubles at 5:13, and the other players - who should all be charging headlong toward the climax. The strings catch up to the beat, but the culminating trumpet fanfare at 5:19 is under-profiled and the orchestra does not deliver an effective culmination that outdoes the earlier, false one (at 1:33).

What follows this peak seems almost an afterthought from the near-reticent orchestra. Granted, more conventional composers would arguably decide either to end straight after the climax or to add a few measures and delay the end. But this is Martinü, and from 5:32 to 6:00 the muted horns, pizzicato strings and various other instrumentalists sound almost laconic; after that, the proceedings rise to a tutti but rather unceremonious end.

By contrast, the performance by Jiri Belohlavek with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Emil Leichner at the piano, of the Martinü: Piano Concertos is another thing entirely. The Czechs under Belohlavek summon build-ups effectively in this movement of the Concertino, and they also create subtle, contemplative passages; the music's rhythmic core is also far better in hand through sharper execution. Better considered as well is the sound spacing to suit the music's needs - whereas the Naxos sound seems uncharacteristically flat. The sound is better adjusted in the Supraphon both in shifting instrumental groups for emphasis into the fore or background for emphasis, and in volume dynamics according to the drama.

All of these result in a performance that is full of conviction: more strident and razor-sharp where needed, and better-nuanced where sensitivity is required. Belohlavek coaxes colour and ornamentation from the orchestra both to accent and add contour to the soloist's part, as against acting in alternation with the pianist. Leichner ends up not as in the fore as Koukl: his part is more closely integrated with the orchestra (the same holds for the timpanist, incidentally, who also stands out much less). The Czech Phil's tighter ensemble delivers slow passages of great refinement while also managing robust, hair-raising fortissimo execution when that's called for.

This last is done with jazzy flair on the trumpets' climactic entry (5:10 here): the players are all but seen to rise and blast out their brief part with dizzy exuberance. Closer attention to the shape of what remains after this peak also brings out some more tightly-wound, eventful music -- just listen to those lovely, long pizzicato lines of cellos and double basses shaping the closing passages, which leave no sense of disappointment when the end arrives.

At best, unlike Supraphon, Naxos provided insufficient rehearsal time. Giorgio Koukl does perform admirably, although Fagen's BMPO does not quite rise to that standard. The often-read reference to Naxos's low pricing must be invoked, since, to be clear, this is no amateur effort nor artistic disaster: there remains plenty to enjoy here, and in the rest of the recording.

This CD is certainly recommended: Martinü is, very simply, *that* engaging. At this price it's a must for any music-lover -- especially if Martinü's new to you. But if the Supraphon with Leichner/Belohlavek is within your grasp, that's the one you want.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little Known Concertos of Martinu 9 April 2010
By David A. Wend - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bohuslav Martinu was born in the Czech Republic in 1890 and moved to Paris in the 1920s to study music with Albert Roussel. He lived in the United States from 1940 fleeing the war in Europe. It was in the United States that his symphonies were written and the Third Piano Concerto which was on a request from pianist Rudolph Firkusny. The concerto was written during 1947 and premiered by the Dallas Symphony in 1949. The work is neo-classical and begins with a long orchestral introduction prior to the entrance of the soloist. For anyone who knows the music of Martinu, his thematic development will be familiar along with his characteristic "twinge."

The concerto is an engaging work with spectacular interplay between soloist and orchestra in the first movement, a Brahmsian andante that contains some brilliant music beautifully blending orchestra and soloist. The finale begins with a brief phrase by the orchestra; the soloist enters with a lively melody, which is developed to a climax and is followed by more reflective and mysterious music, gradually becoming livelier again. A brilliant cadenza takes us back to the beginning melody played by the orchestra followed by a rousing interplay between soloist and orchestra concluding on an optimistic chord.

The Fifth Concerto was written in 1957 by which time Martinu had moved to Switzerland. An ominous chord from the brass opens the concerto, which bears the designation Fantasia concertante. The opening movement has the composer's characteristic seven-note theme worked into an effective interplay between the soloist and orchestra. The second movement begins with long peaceful chords played by the orchestra. The piano joins and the peaceful mood continues and gradually becomes more agitated, moving into a passage of shimmering trills. The finale begins on an exuberant note developing to a lyrical middle section.

The Concertino for Piano and Orchestra dates from 1938. It is a lively work characterized in the first movement with jazz-like syncopated chords. The middle movement is lyrical and is followed by an exuberant finale.

The Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra under Arthur Fagen performs beautifully and more than ably supports the soloist Giorgio Koukl, who performs the demanding concertos with enthusiasm. A highly recommended disc.
5.0 out of 5 stars Martinu's Piano Concertos 15 Mar. 2012
By Mr. Ra Gannon - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This completed my collection of Martinu's Piano Concertos and a worthwhile buy it is. If you want a change from the core reportoire on Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Grieg, etc, these concertos are a great discovery. Colorful, melodious, with Czech rhythm's abounding. All 5 concertos are available on Naxos ( 2 CDs ) at a budget price and available from Amazon. Enjoy!!
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Martinu Concertos 3 and 5 9 July 2010
By James W. Galbraith - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I got this CD because of a very favorable review from Gramophone Magazine, not because I was familiar with Martinu. However, I found the music very interesting and challenginf for the pianist. I is sort of a, later than Dvorak, Czech production. The performance is very good and I would recommend it even if you know nothing of Martinu like me. I went ahead and purchased the performance of concertos 2 and 4 and found that similar, and good, like the numbers 3 and 5. Go for it. Good music.
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