Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Bohuslav MARTINU

Symphony no. 2
Symphony no. 4

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Arthur Fagen
NAXOS 8.553349 [60.58]

The Naxos Martinu symphonies series continues with this issue of Nos. 2 and 4. Since Martinu is a great symphonist whose achievement is less valued than it might be (why do our orchestras fight shy of him in the concert hall?), this disc is to be welcomed. But in truth the results are mixed.

First, then, the good news. Symphony no. 2, perhaps the lightest and brightest of the set, receives an enervating performance under Fagen's direction. His orchestra are at their best too, articulating the rhythmic buoyancy of the livelier sections with much conviction, while the Naxos recording is warm and atmospheric.

However, Symphony no. 4 is frankly given a disappointing performance. This is a pity because it is arguably the most immediately appealing of the six Martinu symphonies, and arguably the greatest too. The problems manifest themselves particularly in the first movement, where ensemble is less than tight and there are some odd balances. These problems seem to lie in the performance rather than the recording, though it's hard to be really sure. And does it matter anyway, since the result is the same? The phrasing and shaping of this wonderful movement also leaves much to be desired, while the strings fail to generate that wonderful, glowing sonority which is a special feature of Martinu's orchestral music. Things improve somewhat in the later movements, but the performance still lacks conviction.

Overall, then, this is a disappointing issue, and it is worth looking elsewhere if you want to acquire these symphonies for your collection.

Terry Barfoot

See review by Rob Barnett who was slightly more impressed

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