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Violin Concertos - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or / Arte
When there is so much to love about Bohuslav Martinů's two Violin Concertos, it's surprising that we hear so little of them from the top artists of today. So the first thing to say here is simply that it's very good news indeed to have the pair now being championed on BIS by the likes of Frank Peter Zimmermann and acclaimed Martinů interpreter Jakub Hrůša. Then, the further good news is that what they've produced is every bit as good one would have hoped. Concerto No. 2 opens the programme. Written in 1943 for Mischa Elman, and premiered the same year, it was swiftly taken up by other violinists of the period, who were no doubt instantly beguiled by its romance and lyricism, and its by strong Czech folk echoes. Here, the Bamberger Symphoniker's opening orchestral tutti fabulously sets the tone: full, wide and trembling; glossily rich and rhythmically sharp, followed by Zimmermann himself displaying all his usual polish and precision (the silkiest of double-stops), while occasionally spicing his sweetly silvery and singing tone with just the right dose of folk edge. The central Andante doesn't hang around — it's a good 2'20” faster than Isabelle Faust's exquisite reading on harmonia mundi — but the overriding impression is simply one of airy movement, with an infectious sense of carefree pastoral joy from everyone. The third movement is then nothing short of a joyride, and indeed one over which it's often the high-octane orchestra that shines most brightly, for its technical pizazz, and chameleon-like reinventions over the score's constantly shifting shapes, colours and moods. Next comes Concerto No. 1, and if ever a concerto were a wronged Cinderella then it's this one. Penned in 1931 while Martinů was living in Paris, it's again alive with Czech folk inflections, but this time sitting within a neoclassical language no doubt inspired by his fellow Paris-based émigré, Stravinsky. It was also written for the dedicatee of Stravinsky's own Violin Concerto of 1931, Samuel Dushkin. However, unlike with Stravinsky, Dushkin refused to play ball with Martinů — demanding successive revisions, delaying performing it, and refusing other violinists to premiere it in his place, until eventually the work was put to one side. The manuscript was eventually rediscovered in 1968, nine years after Martinů's death, and premiered in 1973 by Josef Suk. It's hard to know for sure whether the violin part's virtuosities were more a result of Dushkin's penchant for display, or of Martinů flexing his own violinistic muscles (it was as a violinist that he first entered the Prague Conservatory). Either way, Zimmermann dispatches its fiendish acrobatics with vim-filled perfection, matched over every hop, skip and jump by the crisply fleet-footed and exuberant orchestra. Frankly, all the above would be enough to sell this recording. However Zimmermann then also gifts us with a compellingly impassioned reading of Bartók's Hungarian folk and Bach-influenced Sonata for Solo Violin of 1944. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Concertos - Released April 6, 2018 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Bohuslav Martinu took naturally to the double-concerto format, with its various possibilities for exchange between the soloists, and he wrote quite a few of them. There are various recordings of the works recorded here, with the aptly titled Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra probably the most popular of the three. But the grouping here, with established duos in the two double concertos, is unique. All three of the concertos date from Martinu's American period, with the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra the earliest one, from 1943. Naturally enough, this work is the edgiest, and it gets a high level of tension from pianists Mari and Momo Kodama. The other two works are richly lyrical within a neoclassic framework, an attractive combination. Sample the opening movement of the Concerto No. 2 for two violins and orchestra, H. 329, performed by the somewhat lesser-known Romanian-French sister duo of Sarah and Deborah Nemtanu, who add humor in unexpected places and have an apparent sibling rapport. The Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille has a lively alertness to what the soloists are doing, and the end result is a strong recording of works by this composer whose recorded catalog is still rather sparse. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 27, 2019 | Supraphon a.s.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Bohuslav Martinů wrote his Piano Concerto No. 4, “Incantation", in New York in the twilight of his life, when it was evident that he would never return to his homeland. The soloist featured on the new album, Ivo Kahánek, expressed his high opinion and affection for the work: “I personally consider Incantation to be one of the finest works of Martinů’s and one of the best pieces of Czech music in general, as well as one of the most singular compositions for piano and orchestra of the second half of the 20th century. All the facets, from motoric rhythmicity, through passion and tragedy, to dreamy surrealism, form together a truly breath-taking whole.” The selection of the soloist for the recording was by no means random. Kahánek has played the Incantation at prominent concert halls all over the world. The performance of the piece in Bamberg, captured on the present album, which will be launched within the Dvořák Prague festival on Monday 9 September 2019, has been lauded by the critics as revelatory. The studio recording of Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Concerto ranks among the most forcible returns to the composer’s original version of the work, forbearing the “effective and virtuoso improvements” carried out by its later arrangers. It showcases the tender and melodious music of Dvořák, who always strove to emphasise profound expression, giving it preference to instrumental impression. As Jakub Hrůša put it: “The concerto possesses immense power and beauty, representing an interesting task for the conductor, an equal dialogue, with the orchestra and the conductor always having something to offer.” The recordings were made in 2017 and 2019, in collaboration with a top-notch Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR Klassik) team, at the Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, the Bamberger Symphoniker’s home venue, whose acoustics are among the best in Europe. © Supraphon
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Classical - Released July 4, 2011 | Onyx Classics

Jirí Belohlávek's live 2009 set of the six symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu marked the 50th anniversary of the composer's death, as commemorated by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a series of concerts at London's Barbican. At once ingratiating and enigmatic, magical and urbane, Martinu's symphonic cycle is a substantial body of work that should be more popular with audiences. The atmospheric orchestration, the lively rhythmic impulse, the elastic melodic designs, and the harmonic ingenuity of the music bring immediate pleasure and communicate wondrous images and emotions. Yet the symphonies also seem difficult to pin down, because Martinu's originality -- not quite post-romantic, not quite neo-classical -- seems to have sprung from a personal development that doesn't fit with received notions of European modernism. These works are also profoundly unfamiliar to most listeners, another reason for their strangeness. The relative scarcity of recordings has seriously delayed Martinu's acceptance in the west, and the symphonies have usually been heard, when heard at all, on separate recordings. Even so, there have been a few noteworthy sets by Neeme Järvi, Bryden Thomas, Vladimír Válek, and Václav Neumann, so the addition of Belohlávek's recordings to this esteemed company is increasing the public's awareness of these works. The playing on these recordings is outstanding, both in technique and expression, and the sound of this triple CD package is spacious and full, with great orchestral depth, breadth, and physical presence. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released May 18, 2007 | Supraphon a.s.

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Chamber Music - Released February 5, 2021 | Nimbus Records

Booklet
The mid-20th century has a tragic and many-faceted story to tell where musicians from Europe, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are concerned. So many were either blacklisted, dismissed from their positions and forced into exile or transported to the camps and simply eliminated. Some, like Martinu, seemed unsettled wherever they were. He was blown hither and yon by events beyond his control but he managed to stay just one step ahead of the invaders, seeking a place where he and his wife could live well despite the war – and where he could work freely. This peripatetic existence was not eased by his difficult, possibly autistic, personality – but that did not prevent him from composing a vast and very successful amount of music in all genres, including an unusually large number of pieces for the cello. Some early sets of short pieces for cello and piano certainly helped him to gain an enormous confidence and facility in that combination so that, when he came to compose his three sonatas, all written for specific cellists, the music could be filled with technical, idiomatic brilliance. Seven Arabesques of 1931 display rhythmic quirkiness and repetition, an attractively dissonant color and an entertaining individuality while generally adopting a straightforward ABA design. Melody, mechanical quasi-minimalist repetition, complicated syncopation, jazz and bravura – they’re all here in generous helpings. © Nimbus
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Symphonic Music - Released January 1, 1989 | Supraphon a.s.

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Classical - Released August 16, 2004 | Supraphon a.s.

If you were trying to get a single disc to see if you like Bohuslav Martinu, try this one. If you were trying to get a single work to see if you like Bohuslav Martinu, try the final work on this disc. Because if Martinu's solemn, sorrowful, and sublime Memorial to Lidice as performed by Karel Ancerl leading the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra doesn't do it for you, nothing ever will. This is not to say that Ancerl and the CPO's recordings of Martinu's Fifth and Sixth symphonies are not both the most compelling recordings of either piece ever made, they are. And this is not to say that Martinu's gloriously lyrical Symphony No. 5 and his gorgeously mysterious Symphony No. 6 are not the twin peaks of his symphonic art, they are. But the Memorial to Lidice, Martinu's heartfelt response to the Nazi's razing of the village of Lidice, is in another class altogether. Stark, solemn, and sublime, the Memorial to Lidice is arguably Martinu's masterpiece and while its gravitas is unlike most of Martinu's light and colorful music, its depth and profundity make it his most overwhelming work. Supraphon's remastered sound is a bit distant but honest. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 5, 2012 | Naxos

Booklet
Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, though essentially part of the French neo-classic school, was touched as well by Bartók and American jazz. A certain droll quality runs through many of his works, and it's brought out well here by the Holst Sinfonietta under conductor Klaus Simon. This Naxos release can be recommended both for those seeking a Martinu sampler and for confirmed fans. The latter recommendation is due to the inclusion of a reconstructed, premiered, and worthwhile work, La revue de cuisine: Ballet du Jazz, composed at the height of the French jazz craze in 1927. It's a suite of mostly short movements that take some detail of jazz (really ragtime is Martinu's most common reference point) as a starting point for a coherent little structure, and it's delightful (even the Marche funèbre). The reconstruction was done by none other than early music specialist Christopher Hogwood. Also noteworthy is the Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra, composed in 1935, just when Wanda Landowska and her student Marcelle de Lacour (its dedicatee) were popularizing the harpsichord in Paris. Martinu's orchestration is masterful here; the winds are deployed with attacks that make them sound almost, but not quite, like a second harpsichord. Chamber Music No. 1, composed in 1959 and one of Martinu's last works, also contains unusual effects, this time based on the combination of harp and piano. Les rondes is a work suggesting Czech round dances. The Southwest German Radio studio sound is excellent, and the music by this underrated composer is enjoyable from start to finish. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released January 18, 2003 | Naxos

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Opera - Released June 10, 2016 | Oehms Classics

Booklet
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Classical - Released May 5, 2015 | BIS

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles Classica
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Classical - Released January 1, 1996 | Supraphon a.s.

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Opera - Released April 21, 2017 | Oehms Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Opera - Released October 19, 2018 | Supraphon a.s.

Hi-Res Distinctions Diapason d'or
What men live by? described by Martinu as a pastoral-opera was written in 1951-1952 in the United States, to an English libretto by the composer after the short story by Leo Tolstoy "Where Love is, there God is also" (1885), and premiered as a television broadcast in New York in May 1953. The first staged performance took place on July 31, 1954, in Interlochen, Michigan. Today we owe Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic orchestra this first discographic recording. Here is the argument: devastated by the pain of the loss of his wife and children, Martin Avdeitch, cobbler by trade, is comforted in the reading of the Bible. During a dream, he sees Jesus who promises him to visit him the next day. While waiting for this meeting, the man helps a poor mother with her child, offers a tea to a soldier, takes the defense of a child whom his grandmother denounces as a thief. In the evening, he hears again the voice of Jesus who says to him: "Did you not recognize me?" « [...] the composer wants more joy than preaching: "you have to sing it like a popular song, without pathos." Jiri Belohlavek does not betray his will. Well helped by Lukas Vasilek's luminous Martinu Voices and a Czech Philharmonic which in the Great Hall of Rudolfinum perfectly adapts to the dimensions of this intimate theater, he paints a lively and superbly imagined miniature. Entirely Czech-speaking, the voices color English with inflections that add to the cachet of this first recording. Nothing to say about the performance of Ivan Kusnjer, always able to find the appropriate expressive register. [...] Belohlavek adorns the Symphony No. 1 (1942) with new finery, after a first engraving under a stormy sky (Chandos) and an English remake full of a luminous interiority (Onyx). [...] » (Diapason, January 2019 / Nicolas Derny). Disappeared in 2017, the Czech conductor will not have had time to record his new version of the Martinu complete symphonies. © Qobuz
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Symphonic Music - Released January 1, 1997 | Supraphon a.s.

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Classical - Released January 23, 2009 | Supraphon a.s.