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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Symphony No. 1 (1942) [36:26]
Symphony No. 2 (1943) [23:45]
Symphony No. 3 (1944) [28:51]
Symphony No. 4 (1945) [33:12]
Symphony No. 5 (1946) [31:05]
Symphony No. 6 Fantaisies Symphoniques (1953) [27:26]
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. 4-7 May 1987 (1-4); 28-20 March 1988 (5-6) Dominikanerbau, Bamberg. DDD
originally issued separately as BIS CD362, CD363, CD402
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 8950 [3 CDs: 60:52 + 62:44 + 59:16]
Experience Classicsonline

A small landslide of Martinů recordings marks the fact that 2009 is the fiftieth anniversary of Martinů’s death. This issue is part of that phenomenon. The present recordings have stood yeoman service since the late 1980s and continue to do so.

This First Symphony is notable for its pliant yet sinewy textures lit by the glinting piano. The woodwind sing out delightfully in Järvi's ‘take’ on Symphony No. 2 (00.41; I). In last movement there is a wonderful sense of release, joy and liberation. The Fourth - my favourite of the Six - flows more stiltedly than the vintage 1960s Turnovsky (Apex) or the Neumann (Supraphon). However in the buoyant exuberance of the finale Järvi conveys an onrushing flood-tide of expressive power.

BIS's Bamberg sound is powerful yet with woodwind voices projecting optimistic character. The orchestra’s strings do not radiate the last word in luxury though neither are they in any way unyielding.

The liner notes comprising four solid pages are from the original BIS discs and are by Stig Jacobsson.

The format is another one of those four-leaf fold-out card cases with a leaf for each of the three discs and another to hold the booklet. It’s essentially the same physical design as the one Brilliant uses for the Rachmaninov songs first recorded by Chandos.

The BIS box was quite a bargain; this one even more so. It’s the least expensive way of getting to grips with all six symphonies though you should watch out for special offers on the Chandos-Thomson set as well. Thomson is good. Neumann and Valek - both on Supraphon - are also worth watching out for although the former is from the 1970s and the latter has had some very discouraging reviews. No Martinů collection would be complete without also having the Turnovsky 1960s recording of the Fourth Symphony on Warner Apex - it’s that good.

Rob Barnett 

 


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