10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Deserving Award Winner,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Martinu: The Six Symphonies [GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2012] (Audio CD)
It's no surprise to me that Belohlavek is pretty well peerless with Martinu's symphonies but the efforts of the BBC Symphony Orchestra are a real ear opener too: they sound world class here. Then there's the small matter of the sound engineering: astounding! The clarity, balance and warmth of this live recording must surely be the best to ever come out of the Barbican. What an achievement.
As for the performances and interpretation: Belohlavek has made recordings with the Czech Philharmonic and I loved his recording of the Fourth with them. The Onyx version is a match for that. It would be the highlight but for the new life Belohlavek and the BBC SO have breathed into the Second and Third. The Second often sounds like a lazy, clod hopping country cousin but here it's lighter, incisive and classically balanced. I hear new details in the Third that I'd not heard before with the finale far better balanced than is usually the case.
The rest are all excellent but those two were real highlights for me. the same incisive, precise playing is heard in all with a conductor who knows what he wants and an orchestra delivering 100%. Each of the symphonies is neatly proportioned the emphasis on clarity doesn't reduce tempos - quite the opposite in some places. The expressive power of this music is never lost: listen to the slow movement of the First - it comes across as a picture of devastation unmatched in other recordings, including Belohlavek's own with the Czech Philharmonic. Impressive as these recordings are at first hearing you'll find more and more to discover on repeated hearings.
Despite Martinu's symphonies being very underrated there are plenty of good recordings, many mentioned here by other reviewers. You can even add the naxos series with Arthur Fagen. The great thing about these symphonies is that they are hard to ruin, being so neatly packaged as they are.
If Belohlavek ever gets round to doing the full set with the Czech Philharmonic and has these sound engineers working with him then this set might - but only might - be surpassed. For Martinu fans this recording is the best I've heard and a great place to start for those new to his music. Wonderful!