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Musique de Chambre No. 1 (cl, vn, va, vc, hp, pf) (1959)
Fantaisie (ondes martenot, ob, pf, string quartet) (1944)
Les Rondes (ob, cl, bn, tpt, 2 vns, pf) (1930)
Nonet (fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, vn,va, vc, bs) (1959)
soloists from Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg: Philippe Koch (violin 1); Osamu Yaguchi (violin 2); Ilan Schneider (va); Aleksandr Kramouchin (vc); Thierry Gavard (double bass); Nicola Tulliez (harp); Markus Brönimann (fl); Fabrice Mélinon; Olivier Dartevelle (cl); David Sattler (bn); Marc Bouchard (horn); Adam Rixer (trumpet); with François Kerdoncuff (piano); Jacques Tchamkerten (ondes martenot); Mark Foster (cond. Nonet)
rec 18-20 Sept 2000, Conservatoire, Luxembourg, DDD
TIMPANI 1C1060 [64.21]
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If left to guess I might, on the evidence of the first few moments, have guessed Musique de Chambre No. 1 was from the Parisian years. In fact it is from Martinů's last year and as it proceeds, while it does carry the mark of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro, it sounds more and more like the Parables and Esquisses. Folk voices also surface in accents rough and brusque adding a rugged edginess to the music. The village fiddlers speak of chilly squalls and of distant wars, of ditches, battlements and black pools. Alongside such gritty reality Martinů offers up the beatitude of his so characteristic lyrical ideas. The work's original name Fêtes Nocturnes fitted it rather better than its rather grey official name. By the way there is no number two.
The 1944 Fantaisie has two largos flanking a Poco allegro. The work was commissioned by Lucy Bigelow Rosen, a virtuoso of the theremin, an instrument later supplanted by the similar ondes martenot (best known from the Turangalila Symphony) used here. In the largos Martinů taps into Mozartian serenity and in the allegro the busy chuffing of the strings lofts high the ondes martenot's long-lined nostalgic theme. This work is from the incredibly productive years of the Fourth and Fifth symphonies … and it shows.
Les Rondes is in six movements originally entitled Moravian Dances. The work is heavily accented in Stravinskian apparel especially in the first and last movements. This is crossed with the sort of busy and yearning activity you find in Prokofiev's Overture on Jewish Themes and Copland's Vitebsk. There is also a klezmer style waltz and a sentimental hymn (andantino).
The Nonet is from 1959. It is less Gallic than the Musique de Chambre and rather closer to the symphonies of the 1940s. From that point of view it is a throwback by comparison with the other 1959 work on this CD. The Nonet's outward-facing movements radiate optimism and youthful energy unlike the central andante which is November-ish and soulfully nostalgic in a mood which I do not recognise from the symphonies.
A valuable collection. Good programme notes. Spot-on technical judgements. Lovely playing by an ensemble 'in concert' and drawn from the Luxembourg orchestra. I note that this disc is presented as a tribute to their conductor, David Shallon, who died in 2000.
Martinů always writes well. I cannot recall any duds. These are enjoyable works and are not otherwise easy to find.
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