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Martinu, Schnittke: Concertos For 2 Pianos/ Genova, Dimitrov


Release Date: 04/16/2002 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 999804   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Bohuslav MartinuAlfred Schnittke
Performer:  Aglika GenovaLiuben DimitrovKathrin Rabus
Conductor:  Eiji Oue
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Genova & Dimitrov Piano DuoHannover Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Despite the poor choice of couplings, this disc contains outstanding performances of both major works. The Clinton-Narboni Duo on Elan recently set the standard in Martinu's wonderful Concerto for Two Pianos, but this performance is every bit as good, and happily quite different. Rather than the chamber orchestra featured on Elan, Genova and Dimitrov enjoy the backing of a full ensemble, and what they sacrifice in the finer points of harmonic detail (evident, for example, at the opening of the finale) they more than make up for in sheer adrenalin. The very natural balances also pay major dividends in the atmospheric textures of the long central slow movement. Anyone who loves this work, a genuine masterpiece in Martinu's late style (dating Read more from the same period as the six symphonies), will want to hear both recordings.

Schnittke's Concerto for Piano four-hands and Chamber Orchestra sits uneasily beside the Martinu, which really is a much better piece all around. Without getting judgmental about the differences in stylistic orientation, Schnittke's stream-of-consciousness collage approach to matters of form in this 20-minute, single-movement work sounds shapeless and disorganized following Martinu's tightly structured and inventive pattern-making. Simple harmonies and tunes, seemingly tossed at random into a dissonant pot, crash into chaotic episodes of raucous noise, punctuated by the recurring sounds of deep bells à la the finale of Mahler's Sixth. There's one particularly effective climax at the concerto's center, in which the pianists attack a dissonant version of something that suspiciously recalls the final section of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue; but the piece ends, as do so many of this composer's late works, in a fog of black nothingness, its ultimate effect just plain depressing.

I happened to be present at the premiere of Hommage à Grieg in Bergen, Norway in the early 1990s. Schnittke, already terribly ill from several major heart attacks, was in the audience as well, looking very sad and very sick. He received a generous ovation, and rightly so, but the work itself is a sweet, sad, five-minute piece of fluff that singularly fails to evoke Grieg in any special way (despite the obvious reference to the first bars of Solveig's Song from Peer Gynt at the very opening). Polyphonic Tango, however, though even shorter than the Hommage, has far more fire in its belly, and of all the works here reveals this composer at his considerable best: grim, funny, sonically inventive, and full of surprises. Schnittke always makes good musical points in tango rhythm. As mentioned above, the performances are excellent in every way, and superbly recorded. This disc doesn't really "work" as a whole, but taken individually it's got some terrific parts.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Aglika Genova (Piano), Liuben Dimitrov (Piano)
Conductor:  Eiji Oue
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Genova & Dimitrov Piano Duo,  Hannover Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Date of Recording: 2001 
Venue:  Grosser Sendesaal, Landesfunk, Hannover 
Length: 23 Minutes 40 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Piano 4 hands by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Liuben Dimitrov (Piano), Aglika Genova (Piano)
Conductor:  Eiji Oue
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Genova & Dimitrov Piano Duo,  Hannover Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USSR 
Date of Recording: 2001 
Venue:  Grosser Sendesaal, Landesfunk, Hannover 
Length: 19 Minutes 45 Secs. 
3.
Hommage à Grieg by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Kathrin Rabus (Violin)
Conductor:  Eiji Oue
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hannover Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; USSR 
Date of Recording: 2001 
Venue:  Grosser Sendesaal, Landesfunk, Hannover 
Length: 5 Minutes 21 Secs. 
4.
Polyphonic Tango by Alfred Schnittke
Conductor:  Eiji Oue
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hannover Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; USSR 
Date of Recording: 2001 
Venue:  Grosser Sendesaal, Landesfunk, Hannover 
Length: 5 Minutes 6 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Concerto for 2 Pianos, H. 292: I. Allegro non troppo
Concerto for 2 Pianos, H. 292: II. Adagio
Concerto for 2 Pianos, H. 292: III. Allegro
Concerto for Piano 4 hands and Chamber Orchestra
Hommage a Grieg
Polyphonic Tango

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