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.
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).
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.
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?
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'.
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
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 ...