can't really go wrong with this collection. The only thing you
will have to struggle with is your incredulity that such fine
recordings and interpretations are being offered at less than
£5 per disc. If you live in the UK it seems likely (given reports
that Brilliant's Shostakovich symphonies are now going for a fiver
in Superdrug) that the set will turn up eventually at £1 per disc
Martinůs were first issued in a boxed collection in 1991
by Bayer Records who licensed the masters to Brilliant. I have
sample-compared the original Bayers (which I see I bought for
Ł26.99) with the new Brilliant set. They sound identical.
Heck you don't even lose out on the booklet notes. The ones in
the Brilliant Box are exactly the same ones written by Dr Milan
Slavicky for the Bayer box except that the notes are only in English
- no German or French.
is no box in direct competition with this one. The closest we
come to that is Supraphon's complete Martinů quartets in
AAD sound on 11 0994-2 with the Panocha Quartet. There is little
to choose between the two. There is as much buoyant life in the
Panochas as in the Stamitzes. If there is a difference it is down
to the fact that the Panocha cycle was recorded between 1979 and
1982. Their sound is a little pinched by comparison with the ample
tone of the Bayer and Brilliant sound. The Stamitz also tend to
be slower by seconds than the Panocha on Quartets one to three
but things reverse for four to seven.
addition to the highly competitive, indeed superior, Martinů
cycle you also get both pairs of string quartets from Smetana
and Janáček. They are recorded rather closely so I am not
sure that we are getting the best effect and this continuous proximity
limits the atmosphere that can be achieved. These are, I would
say, good performances rather than Hall of Fame material - never
less than perceptive and polished and done with feeling but lacking
that quality to deeply move or astonish. Not revelatory but performances
that would satisfy if you heard them at a concert.
represents a superb Martinů cycle ... probably the market
leader although you will want to compare the Naxos CDs which are
available separately which I have not heard but have been acclaimed
by many critics. The Smetana and Janáček are good library
recordings if not Hall of Fame material. That said I was really
struck by the lilting pace of the Presto-Allegro of the
Second Smetana Quartet.