Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Symphony No. 4 H305 (1945) [32.07]
Tre Ricercari H267 (1938) [14.05]
Piano Concerto No. 4 Incantations H358 (1956) [18.59]
Josef Páleniček (piano)
Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra/Jiři Pinkas (concerto)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Martin Turnovsky (Symphony; Tre Ricercari)
rec. ADD 1967, 1968
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 0927 49822 2 [65.17]

Turnovsky's Martinů 4 has always commanded a loyal following ... and with good reason. The symphony is one of the most luminous, rhythmically alive, optimistic, mordant, purposeful and celebratory pieces of the twentieth century. It is comparable in spirit with the Moeran Symphony, Joly Braga Santos's Fourth Symphony (now in superb hands on Marco Polo), the Randall Thompson Second Symphony and Janáček's Sinfonietta. Turnovsky directs a performance that is headlong, maybe a little splashy on occasions, but radiantly sanguine and yea-saying. The exuberance of the amber-toned horns in the last five minutes is an unalloyed joy and you are not telling me that Elmer Bernstein had not heard the superb peroration of the work before writing the score for The Magnificent Seven.

The Turnovsky held solitary sway in the late 1960s when, implausibly, it was the only Martinů symphony in the catalogue chaffed sporadically by one-offs such as Michael Bialoguski's version of the Sixth (Unicorn LP coupled with the Vorisek) and very little else. It was only in the 1970s that Neumann's Supraphon cycle shook up the scene along with Walter Weller's version of No. 4 with the RLPO (EMI - I have forgotten what that sounded like).

The Symphony's discmate in those long gone days was the very same Tre Ricercari we have here. This work is brilliant, neo-classical though avoiding the dehydration of Pulcinella. There is still bloom and fruit in this writing. It is recorded breathtakingly close but with undeniable impact.

The analogue heritage of all these tapes is discreetly diffused by Floating Earth who remastered the Supraphon tapes. Intriguingly there is an Erato patent marking - an error?

The Fourth Concerto premiered in New York is given another superb performance comparable with the wildside helter-skelter of Ogdon's CRI version of the Mennin Piano Concerto. It has that probing exploratory sense that you find in the Parables and parts of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Of course this has been recorded by Rudolf Firkusny as well and is included on his ‘References et Repertoires’ double on BMG. The BMG is better recorded but Palenicek is wilder still. There are moments when this sounds like Messiaen. Martinů was seemingly daring his way out to Whitman's 'Unknown Region'.

I hope that Warner-Apex are now on a roll with the Supraphon Martinů LPs. At this price many people will be falling over themselves to snap up reissues of the following Supraphons: Cello Concerto No. 1 and the extremely fine Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra (1953) SUP 110 1348; Cello Concerto No. 2 with Sasa Vectomov SUP 50883; Sinfonietta La Jolla and Toccata e Due Canzoni (with Zdenek Hnat) SUP 110 1619; Piano Trio Concertino and Sinfonietta Giocosa SUP 4102 198. The highest priority must go to the Hnat material and the Concerto for Piano and Violin. Hnat's version of the Toccata e Due Canzoni (wonderfully light suffused work) reigns supreme over the Chandos and Arte Nova versions.

To return to this disc: this is one of the unmistakable and unmissable highlights of the year. A glorious bargain just like the same label's Madetoja Second Symphony (conducted by Paavo Rautio). Pick it up. Surprise yourself. Now if only you could bottle the musicmaking on this disc ...

Rob Barnett

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