Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)
String Quartet Number 4 (1937) [20:42]
String Quartet Number 5 (1938) [28:28]
String Quartet Number 7 "Concerto da Camera" (1947) [21:59]
Martinu Quartet: (Lubomír Havlák, violin I, Petr Macećek, violin II, Jan Jíša, viola, Jitka Vlanšánková, cello)
Recorded in the Martíek Studio, Prague, 20-21 November, 16-17 December 1995 DDD
NAXOS 8.553784 [71:09]


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Martinu is a composer who seems to have a growing worldwide fan club, if the proliferation of recordings of his music is any indication. I approached this music feeling some sort of obligation to like it. Alas, after careful consideration, I must conclude that Martinu was a composer that was as uneven as he was prolific. He was also given, like his American counterpart Alan Hovhaness, to repeated uses of the same compositional devices; devices which wear thin very quickly.

That is not to say that there is not at least some interesting music here. In particular, the slow movements are fresh in their harmonic language, and original in their melodic construct. In particular, the Andante of the seventh quartet is simply gorgeous, and it is played here with a tenderness and care that borders on the sublime. Alas, the two or three slow gems cannot make up for the incessant underpinning of chugging sixteenth-note chords, scored in gratingly tight and dissonant harmonies that demolish the majority of the faster movements. One can handle this device for a time. It was reasonably effective in the fourth quartet’s first movement. But when it reappeared in the second and fourth movements, and then reared its head again in the fifth quartet, I, for one, had had quite enough.

Nevertheless, there is still some music to enjoy here, and despite the freight train motif, the melodies that peer above it have some originality and grace, and are at least worth the investment of a single listen.

The performances here are basically above reproach. The Martinu quartet plays vigorously, and with a fine sense of ensemble. They are simply ravishing in tone and expression in the slower movements mentioned above. It would be a joy indeed to hear them in better repertoire.

Keith Anderson, as usual, provides excellent program notes and the sound quality is of the first order. For fans of Martinu’s music, this disc is worth the investment. Recommended with some hesitation.

Kevin Sutton

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