Arthur Fagen already demonstrated his credentials as a Martinu conductor with his generally excellent complete symphony cycle for Naxos, and this first installment of the piano concertos also is very fine. The Third concerto, Martinu's largest, is a magnificent work that Rudolf Firkusny made his own. Giorgio Koukl's performance is quite different. Whereas Firkusny is more "romantic", shaping phrases expressively and adjusting dynamics to create a more lyrical emphasis, Koukl, at slightly slower tempos, emphasizes the music's neo-classicism, with punchy rhythms and a drier overall sonority. Both approaches are perfectly legitimate when the playing is this good, and Koukl's interpretations give all three works a certain consistencyRead more of style, from the relatively early Concertino (not in fact all that small-scale) to the late Concerto No. 5--a sadly underrated piece that hardly deserves its neglect.
The Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, like many second-tier Eastern European ensembles, won't win any awards for seductive tonal allure, particularly compared to the support that the Czech Philharmonic offers Firkusny. But these players know the music, project it well, and have the composer's perpetually syncopated rhythms in their bones. The slightly dry but very clear sonics complement the rhythmic clarity of the conducting and the solo playing, and earn this disc an easy recommendation.
Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, H 269by Bohuslav Martinu Performer:
Giorgio Koukl (Piano)
Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1938