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Martinu: Piano Quintets No 1 & 2, Etc / Karel Kosárek, Et Al

Release Date: 04/24/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557861   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Karel KosarekJan JisaPetr MacecekLubomir Havlak,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Martinu String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Martinu's Second Piano Quintet dates from 1944, the same time as the Third and Fourth Symphonies, and if you love those works you'll be thrilled by this quintet, which sounds just like them albeit scored for smaller forces. Right from the dreamy opening Martinu's personal blend of impressionistic harmony and sweetly lyrical, syncopated melody makes the work instantly recognizable, and unforgettable. The Adagio second movement must number among his finest in any medium, while the finale, with its alternations of quick and slow tempos and unsettled emotional climate, anticipates that of the Fifth Symphony. In short, this is a great work, certainly one of the best piano quintets of the 20th century
Read more (not that there are all that many worth noting).

The Piano Quintet No. 1 dates from 1933, when Martinu was living in Paris and turning out a delightful stream of neo-classical and neo-baroque works. Although recognizably music by the composer of the Second Quintet, the treatment of material is quite different. The strings tend to operate as a unit, opposed by the full harmony of the piano, while the toccata-like rhythms and more acerbic, less lyrical thematic material are all characteristic traits of Martinu's early maturity. If anything these observations are even more true of the quirky and highly entertaining two-movement Sonata for Two Violins and Piano of a year earlier.

The Martinu Quartet, already acclaimed for its performances on Naxos of its eponymous composer's works for that medium, finds a worthy partner in pianist Karol Kosárek. The performances are uniformly excellent, full of energy but never timbrally crude (as with The Lindsay Quartet on ASV). There is very little competition in this music: the ASV release aside, the most noteworthy previous release comes from an old Denon/Supraphon recording of the Second Quintet featuring the Smetana Quartet. The coupling (Three Madrigals) is much less generous than what Naxos offers here, making this extremely well-recorded release essential for chamber music collectors and Martinu fans alike.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com


MARTIN? Piano Quintets: No. 1; No. 2. Sonata for Two Violins and Piano Karel Košárek (pn); Martin? Qrt NAXOS 557861 (58:33)

The piano quintet is a challenging medium. Setting aside Schubert’s “Trout” and Hummel’s op. 84 (both of which use violin, viola, cello, and double bass instead of string quartet with piano), the Romantic quintets most frequently encountered in concerts today are those by Schumann, Dvo?ák, Franck, and Brahms. One comes across the Saint-Saëns, Elgar, Fauré, and Dohnányi quintets less often. The Brahms piece, published as both a quintet and a sonata for two pianos, provides an interesting illustration of the problem posed by the medium. Does the composer use the ensemble in a sort of mini-concerto, playing off piano and quartet against one another, à la Brahms, or does he attempt a more cohesive integration of the ensemble, achieved with such brilliance by Franck? Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet excepted, relatively few 20th-century essays for the medium have caught on. This new recording of pianist Karel Košárek and the Martin? Quartet (violinists Lubomir Havlák and Petr Mate?ják, violist Jan Jíša, and cellist Jitka Vlašanková) makes a compelling case for admitting Bohuslav Martin?’s two piano quintets into the fold.

The first piano quintet, composed in Paris in 1933, is a life-affirming work of bold contours and bright colors. In terms of ensemble, it is closer to the Brahmsian concerto-like model. The first movement’s robust musical argument is set out here with great conviction. Košárek and the Martin? portray the alternately wistful and anguished Andante with elegance and sympathy. Tricky rhythmical figurations in the harmonically luminous allegretto Scherzo are superbly negotiated. The quartet manages the pungent dissonances that usher in the fourth and final movement with sure intonation and great effect.

Blacklisted by the Nazis, Martin? and his wife immigrated to the US in 1941. Three years later, he composed the Second Piano Quintet, replete with coloristic elements of Bohemian folklore that might suggest the composer’s longing for home. Fluttering trills and tremolandos in the strings and piano lend the strange and beautiful Adagio an ethereal air. Throughout, Martin? accomplishes the Franckian ideal of perfectly integrated ensemble. My sense is that this Quintet plumbs greater depths than the Parisian work, though it is certainly equally appealing.

The neo-Baroque Sonata for Two Violins and Piano comes as a light-hearted affair in the wake of the substantial quintets. The second of its two Allegro movements is prefaced with an odd and fascinating Andante, beautifully played by Havlák and Mate?ják. The excellent pianist Karel Košárek here demonstrates that his expertise as an accompanist equals his strength as the protagonist in the more elaborate quintets.

Writing in the late 1970s, the Austrian musicologist Othmar Wessely called Martin? “a curiously elusive artist,” noting the speed with which he composed his vast output, combined with his aversion to revision. Though a great deal of his music is available, much of it recorded by artists from the former Czechoslovakia, I suspect that a definitive assessment of his work is yet to come. Few would probably argue that Martin?’s achievement approaches the eloquent mastery of his older contemporaries, Janá?ek and Bartók. But at its best, Martin?’s music can be original, compelling, and very beautiful. Karel Košárek and the Martin? Quartet were recorded in a studio of the Czech Radio in Prague in June 2005. The technical values are high, and the ambient acoustic well suited to both the material and the players. Recommended.

FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Piano and Strings no 1, H 229 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Karel Kosarek (Piano), Jan Jisa (Viola), Petr Macecek (Violin),
Lubomir Havlak (Violin), Jitka Vlasánková (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Martinu String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; France 
Venue:  Czech Radio Studio no 1, Prague, Czech R 
Length: 17 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: Czech Radio Studio no 1, Prague, Czech Republic (06/22/2005 - 06/24/2005) 
Quintet for Piano and Strings no 2 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Karel Kosarek (Piano), Lubomir Havlak (Violin), Jitka Vlasánková (Cello),
Petr Macecek (Violin), Jan Jisa (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Martinu String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Venue:  Czech Radio Studio no 1, Prague, Czech R 
Length: 28 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Notes: Czech Radio Studio no 1, Prague, Czech Republic (06/22/2005 - 06/24/2005) 
Sonata for 2 Violins and Piano by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Petr Macecek (Violin), Karel Kosarek (Piano), Lubomir Havlak (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; Prague, Czech Republ 
Venue:  Czech Radio Studio no 1, Prague, Czech R 
Length: 12 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: Czech Radio Studio no 1, Prague, Czech Republic (06/22/2005 - 06/24/2005) 

Sound Samples

Piano Quintet No. 1, H. 229: I. Poco allegro
Piano Quintet No. 1, H. 229: II. Andante (poco moderato)
Piano Quintet No. 1, H. 229: III. Allegretto
Piano Quintet No. 1, H. 229: IV. Allegro moderato
Piano Quintet No. 2, H. 298: I. Poco allegro
Piano Quintet No. 2, H. 298: II. Adagio
Piano Quintet No. 2, H. 298: III. Scherzo - Poco allegretto
Piano Quintet No. 2, H. 298: IV. Largo - Allegro (non troppo)
Sonata for 2 Violins and Piano, H. 213: I. Allegro poco moderato
Sonata for 2 Violins and Piano, H. 213: II. Andante - Allegro

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Fresh, Unique Chamber Music March 1, 2013 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "What a treat it is to hear the works of 20th century Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu! Filled with imaginative themes and a fascinating, slightly acerbic sound world, Martinu's chamber music travels 'outside the box' with unexpected rhythmic shifts,a fusion of seemingly incompatible keys,and an overall sense of anxiety and tension- all under the umbrella of tonal, thoroughly enjoyable music. On this very fine Naxos disk, Martinue' two piano quintets exhibit the above general characteristics in spades. The Czech Republic's excellent Martinu Quartet, together with pianist Karel Kosarek, plays with obvious affection for and understanding of Martinu's slightly unorthodox compositional style. I really enjoyed this recording, and I am sure that you will as well. Firm recommendations." Report Abuse
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