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Martinu: Symphony No 4, Double Concerto, Frescoes, Etc / Hickox, Kubelik, Weller

Martinu / Rlp / Hickox / Kubelik / Weller
Release Date: 03/24/2009 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 64350   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  John AlleyCharles FullbrookAndrew WatkinsonStephen Reay,   ... 
Conductor:  Ingo MetzmacherWalter WellerRafael KubelikRichard Hickox
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 23 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a handy bargain-price overview of the orchestral Martinu in analogue (CD 1) and digital (CD 2) sound. It has been picked from hither and yon among the four corners of the EMI vault. Blessedly dominated by works from his American 1940s and 1950s, it gives a pretty fair representation of the orchestral aspect of this Czech composer. He is - after 2009, the half-centenary of his death - coming into his own.

Weller’s 1979 Liverpool version of the stunning Fourth Symphony suffers from a sluggish first movement and what feels like scrappy playing in the intricate cross-patterns of the first movement. Things improve greatly for a tender Largo and a euphoric Allegro Vivo and Poco Allegro. At the time of first issue it was
Read more quite a project for a North-West of England orchestra and a conductor who had moved between EMI and Decca. Weller can be heard to even better advantage in this work on Fuga Libera where he conducts the National Orchestra of Belgium. However neither of these - good though they are - supplants Turnovsky’s classic version from the 1960s now on Warner Apex at an exceptionally attractive price. Weller and the RLPO are even more successful in La Jolla whose middle movement is lush with the warm nostalgia of Czech countryside harvests. The sound of Kubelik’s Frescoes is analogue-hissy but we hear in this recording what was missing from the Liverpool sessions: an irrepressible zest for life and a pleasing tension. This is great Martinu.

The first three works on CD 2 are from a long-lived Virgin Classics CD. Hickox turns in good performances with the seemingly prophetic Double Concerto oppressively done – aptly so if again without the pile-driver thud of the Karel Sejna Supraphon inscription. More unusual at the time - and even now - is the String Quartet Concerto which is Martinu in his sometimes irritating neo-classical phase. It’s done by Hickox with vitality and in the case of the twilit central Adagio something even more eerily unsettling. The Sinfonia Concertante skips along in similar serenading vein – Haydn in modern dress. Metzmacher’s weightily brooding Lidice Memorial was part of his EMI project to mix Hartmann symphonies with works of Hartmann’s contemporaries. Lidice was the town in which the population was killed by the Nazis in revenge for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. The village was then razed to the ground. This Meditation seems imbued with the same spirit that sets light to RVW’s Sixth Symphony and can be seen as a post-war counterpart to the Double Concerto: awesome fulfilment as against oppressive prophecy. Towards the end the call-to-arms from Beethoven’s Fifth rings out in cordite-reeking irony.

Malcolm Hayes provides a snappy one page note which is also in German and French. There’s no mention of the Sinfonia Concertante.

Inexpensive Martinu in sound performances that have been about a bit.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Memorial to Lidice by Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor:  Ingo Metzmacher
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1995 
Venue:  Sinfonie an der Regnitz 
Length: 7 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Symphony no 4 by Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor:  Walter Weller
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 
Venue:  Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, Lancashire 
Length: 33 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Sinfonietta for Piano and Orchestra "La Jolla" by Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor:  Walter Weller
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; USA 
Venue:  Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, Lancashire 
Length: 20 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Frescoes of Piero della Francesca for Orchestra by Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954; Nice, France 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Double Concerto for 2 String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  John Alley (Piano), Charles Fullbrook (Timpani)
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; Czech Republic 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England 
Length: 22 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  John Alley (Piano)
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Czech Republic 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Sinfonia concertante no 2, H 322 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Andrew Watkinson (Violin), Stephen Reay (Bassoon), Nicholas Daniel (Oboe),
Stephen Orton (Cello)
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England 
Length: 20 Minutes 29 Secs. 

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