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Martinu: Piano Quintets H 229 & 298 / Ivan Klansky, Kocian Quartet


Release Date: 04/14/2009 
Label:  Praga   Catalog #: 250250   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Zbynék PadourekIvan KlanskyPavel HulaVaclav Bernasek,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kocian Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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MARTIn? Piano Quintets: No 1; No. 2. Piano Quartet Ivan Klánský (pn); Kocian Qrt PRAGA 250250 (72:04)


The most atypical work on this disc is the earliest: the Piano Quintet No. 1 from 1933. It lacks in three of its four movements the motoric rhythms, repetitive harmonic Read more blocks, and familial group of themes that reappear in many of Martin?’s second-tier compositions. It is as though the composer had deliberately set out to create something that didn’t possess his habitual fingerprints of style or structure; and if so, he certainly succeeded. Think Milhaud, with a bit of Honegger, and you’ll get some idea of what to expect. Its most interesting movement is the Adagio, pitting the strings in full-bodied Czech romantic mode against a pointillist, sometimes bitonal commentary by the piano.


The Piano Quartet was completed in 1942. It’s more typical of the composer’s music at the time, a pair of unimpressive neo-Classical movements offering stereotypical gestures on either side of an expressive, dissonant threnody that encompasses its own scherzo. It was followed, two years later, by the Piano Quintet No. 2, a more inspired example of the same influences at work on Martin?. All the qualities noted above as missing in the First Quintet are here, but put to better use. The Scherzo, veering with pause and seemingly without reason among grim, pensive, and witty episodes, is especially noteworthy, as is the finale, beginning with a powerful, passacaglia-like introduction for strings that repeatedly returns at length to interrupt the subsequently sunnier proceedings.


I had my initial concerns about the Kocian Quartet. Several of their other recordings have impressed as long on technique, while exhibiting a tendency heard in some modern chamber groups to take slow movements at a prosaically fast pace. That isn’t the case on this album, however. The performances in faster movements don’t lack for verve, but it’s the rest that impresses for being unexpected: the Adagio and the finale to the Piano Quintet No. 2, for instance, played with tonal warmth and at a measured tread that brings their emotional message home.


In Martin? of this vintage, performances succeed best by walking a fine line between the music’s neo-Classical and Romantic aspects. While none of these works has lacked for earlier recordings, not all of those have managed the balancing act. Both Piano Quintets appear, along with the Sonata for Two Violins and Piano, on Naxos 8.557861. The Martin? Quartet and pianist Karel Košárek deliver sparkling performances that I find slightly too reserved but technically expert. Peter Frankl joined the Lindsays for the Second Piano Quintet on ASV 889, a reading that’s slipshod over details, though colorful. The Piano Quartet is played expertly on Virgin Classics 61094 by the Domus Piano Quartet—far better than the heavy-handed Artis Ensemble of Stuttgart (Hänssler Classic 98352) and the too mellow Ames Piano Quartet (Dorian 93261), filing off the spikier edges in this music.


My own feeling is that the Martin?s with Košárek offer a satisfactory alternative to the current disc under review, assuming you want just the piano quintets. The Naxos CD also has slightly cleaner sound, making textures more transparent. But the Kocians mine a bit more of the emotional pay dirt in both works. Either will do, as will the Domus folks in the Piano Quartet.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Piano and Strings no 1, H 229 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Zbynék Padourek (Viola), Ivan Klansky (Piano), Pavel Hula (Violin),
Vaclav Bernasek (Cello), Milos Cerny (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kocian Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; France 
2.
Quintet for Piano and Strings no 2 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Zbynék Padourek (Viola), Ivan Klansky (Piano), Pavel Hula (Violin),
Vaclav Bernasek (Cello), Milos Cerny (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kocian Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
3.
Quartet for Piano and Strings, H 287 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Zbynék Padourek (Viola), Ivan Klansky (Piano), Pavel Hula (Violin),
Vaclav Bernasek (Cello), Milos Cerny (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kocian Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942 

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