Martinu: Piano Concertos Vol.2 (Piano Concertos 2: Nos. 1/ 2/ 4) CD
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Giorgio Koukl, piano - Orchestre Philharmonique Bohuslav Martinu - Arthur Fagen, direction
Koukl and Fagen complete their survey of Martinu's piano concertos in fine style. --Gramophone,Jan'11
Koukl gives energetic and authoritative performances of each of the concertos.Arthur Fagin and his orchestra accompany with a fine sense of ensemble. Performance **** Recording *** --BBC Music Magazine,Jan'11
Top customer reviews
I happily snapped up this volume. Having been unfamiliar with it I found the Fourth Concerto to be a revelation. The two movements sound improvisatory with a very flexible dreamlike lyricism not unlike the sixth symphony. Even so, I've never heard another concerto quite like it. Place that next to his other master concerto, his Double Concerto and the contrast couldn't be greater - two completely different pieces written by the same man and both obvious masterpieces. The fourth anticipates the sound world of Lutoslawski whilst retaining tonality - though it still sounds more radical than the later works of Lutoslawski himself.
So why only four stars? Giorgio Koukl is a Martinu specialist but his style is quite reserved and classical, not in keeping with the nature of this piece. He fairs much better in the spiky neo baroque music of the first concerto and the slightly more expansive second.
There are other reasons too; the first concerto seems to go on for too long - its finale sounds like it is chattering away to itself endlessly and your interest drifts - that's the composer's fault though. The second fairs a little better but though the Orchestra may take the composer's name they're hardly the last word in producing the definitive Martinu sound. They are a pretty average ensemble compared, say, to the Czech Philharmonic, and not helped by a very unsympathetic sound recording. It is a great shame that they really seem to struggle in the subtleties of the Fourth concerto. Yet, even then you can tell that this is great music. There must be better recordings to be had elsewhere though.
This may be cheap but my advice is shop around for the Fourth Concerto, think how great it could sound in the right hands. Even so, this recording is still decent for the price and if alternative recordings of the Fourth are hard to come by then I can still warmly recommend this.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The fourth concerto, which opens the disc, is sometimes claimed to be the best, though I am not completely sure I can agree – perhaps it is just a tougher nut to crack, and I haven’t quite managed, but I have to admit that I sometimes lose sight of the overall point – which is not to say that there isn’t a lot to admire or enjoy here. Cast in two big movements, most of the music is based (not unusually for Martinu) on brief melodic cells that are repeated, permuted and varied upon throughout – the effect being that of building a large structure, with long, floating lines, out a mass of small bricks, though again I sometimes fail, I think, to quite make out that structure, especially in the first movement. In the second movement the material seems scattered at first, but Martinu gradually gathers the threads together to generate powerful – if not particularly fast – forward momentum (despite the conversational character of the material).
The first piano concerto is typical of Martinu’s style in the twenties – urbane, chatty, neo-classical (or neo-baroque), quirky but elegant, with clear textures and invigorating rhythms. The first movement is buoyant and very enjoyable with plenty of French humor without being superficial. In the second movement the music is primarily orchestra-driven, with the soloist providing commentaries and elaborations, whereas the finale is invigorating and joyous. The second concerto is a splendid work, and an excellent example of his thirties style. The music has gained a certain depth that, compared to the earlier work, suggests almost neo-romanticism – the phrases meld together more effortlessly, and the lines are longer, as if he discovered that instead of just being driven forward by rhythmic and thematic pushes, one could achieve momentum through goal-directed arguments and a sense of purpose. At least something along these lines is clear in the remarkable, deeply memorable opening movement. The second movement is even more neo-romantic (indeed, critics will quickly point out the similarity between Martinu’s main theme here and the second movement of Brahms’s double concerto), and builds a simple, but effective frame from the quiet, lyrical opening theme. Perhaps the finale is less overall convincing – it is always great fun to hear Martinu throw his material back and forth between the soloist and the orchestra (they never really find a common voice), but I struggled to discern the longer lines I found in the previous movements. Still, this is a rewarding, even major work.
Giorgio Koukl turns in some excellent solo performances – more vigor and less allure than some soloists might have provided, perhaps, but I really have no complaints. The Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra is excellent as well, and if Naxos’s sound is perhaps not entirely ideally rich and full, this is still a superb release. Very strongly recommended.
These recordings are by an orchestra that could use a few more string players to beef up its sound, but the musicians are very committed and the performances well recorded in a spacious acoustic, but full of instrumental detail. Highly recommended for those in search of some fresh and exciting repertoire. These pieces have a decidedly romantic character with some spicy 20th century harmonies and ample opportunities for the soloist to express his virtuosity.
The First Piano Concerto comes from 1925, and compared with the terse Fourth, this concerto is like a pastoral. The music echoes good humor ala Francis Poulenc and Sergei Prokofiev. The music is tuneful and charming, written in a neo-baroque style. The first movement centers on a joyous melody passed between piano and orchestra while the second movement has a reflective and peaceful melody at its core. The music slowly develops to a shattering Lisztian cadenza before returning to the calm of the opening bars. The finale returns to the playful mood of the opening movement with a brief review of the middle movement melody and ends with the soloist performing some brilliant passage work with the orchestra jubilantly restating the main melody
The Second Piano Concerto comes from 1934 when Martinu was living in Paris. This concerto is more serious that the bubbly first but there still remains lightness to the music. The first movement reflects Prokofiev and Aaron Copland`s influence, even occasionally taking on a romantic feel. The middle movement is peaceful and flowing, developing slowly to a dramatic cadenza. The finale starts of with a long passage played by the soloist with the orchestra abruptly taking over. A dialogue begins between orchestra and pianist that grows ever more animated.
Martinu's piano concerti deserve a wider audience. They are very approachable works brimming with beautiful music. The performances recorded here by the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra under Arthur Fagen are superb. Giorgio Koukl is a fabulous interpreter of Martinu's music and turns in remarkable performances.
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