Notes and Editorial Reviews
This disc memorializes a single concert given on January 21, 1947, at which all three works received their premieres by the Basel Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Paul Sacher, who commissioned them. Someday someone should make a complete list of the pieces commissioned by five people: Paul Sacher, Serge Koussevitzky, the Princess Edmond de Polignac, Leopold Stokowski, and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Without them, 20th century music as we know it certainly would not exist.
Christopher Hogwood leads near ideal performances of all three items, and they respond well to his crisp, period-instrument-influenced approach. He is, in fact, the only conductor who has recorded the Martinu twice (the first time for Decca with the Saint
Paul Chamber Orchestra), and this new version sounds even better both sonically and interpretively, being just that much tighter in rhythm in the outer movements. It's also a serious masterpiece (with a good dose of the tension and drama of the composer's famous, Sacher-commissioned Double Concerto as seen through the more lyrical lens of his late style) that everyone interested in great 20th century music should get to know. Honegger's elusive Fourth Symphony also comes across as particularly fresh and more impulsive and direct than usual, with that wonderful glockenspiel-led chorale against smoothly rushing strings in the first movement gleaming like a spotlight.
Stravinsky's Concerto in D sounds like the odd man out in this collection, no fault of Hogwood's. It's an inferior work altogether, dry as dust, charmless, and no performance of it will make it sound otherwise. Play it in bright, neo-Baroque fashion, as here, and its sterile sequences become maddening; but the heavier and thicker alternative (chez Karajan) is even worse. Admittedly this is a personal (and perhaps controversial) opinion, and given the fact that everything else is marvelous, not to mention the purely historical interest of having these three works together again on the same program, the result remains wholly recommendable.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Toccata e due canzoni, H 311 by Bohuslav Martinu
Florian Hölscher (Piano)
Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1946; USA
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