> MARTINU Concerto 2 pianos SCHNITTKE Concerto 4 hands [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1942) [23.40]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)

Concerto for Piano four hands and Chamber Orchestra (1988) [19.45]
Hommage à Grieg for solo violin and orchestra (1993) [5.21]
Polyphonischer Tango for chamber orchestra (1979) [5.06]
Piano Duo Genova and Dimitrov
Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR/Eiji Oue
Grosser Sendesaal des Landesfunkhauses Niedersachsen des NDR, Hannover, Jan/March 2001
CPO 999 804-2 [54.04]


AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Devotees of Martinů and Schnittke will want to track down this disc. Although of shortish playing duration and with a superficially diffuse and unfocused programme there is quite a bit going for it.

The three movement Martinů work is a legacy of his American wartime years when five symphonies tumbled out in the joyous torrential spate. Those works are irradiated by the dynamics of a scarcely containable excitement typified by the plangent the Fourth Symphony (which I still count the best of the six). The first movement surges with Martinů's usual undampened melodic energy. The ten minute middle-movement adagio only gradually declares itself as by Martinůís hand. Play its first 3 or 4 minutes, sight unseen, to most listeners and I doubt that many will plump for Martinů. At the core of the movement is a filigree of waves and arpeggiated motion (at times redolent of Nancarrow's studies for player piano) that represents the familiar though still strange Martinů. The chirpy finale is busy and bubbly with one surreal episode at 4.09 which reminded me of the dreamlike stasis of his opera Julietta.

Schnittke's concerto turns its face from such joy. He seems to be exploring danker regions and unwelcoming depths. The horror of life and its dark other half are what Schnittke seems to aim at though he also surprises with innocence and calm as at 3.02. Anger, slow moving kaleidoscopic metamorphosis, martellato violence (8.02), phantasmal realms as far removed from Martinů's sunlight as you can go. Scrambling for parallels the closest I can achieve is to pick up Martinů's Concerto for strings, piano and timpani - a work that looked forward towards Second World War. There worlds are ground to dust or hymned in sorrow much as the famous Bruno Walter Mahler 9 (only recently reissued by Naxos Historical) recorded in Vienna in 1938 did and does.

The other two very short works are first a pastiche Grieg experiment founded on ballet music Schnittke had written for a Gynt ballet in 1986 (and recently toured through the German länder). The solo violin (played by Kathrin Rabus) seems to hold up a skeletal hand and usher us towards a much more equivocal harmonic destination: part Schnittke-like putrescence and part nostalgic Tchaikovsky. The Tango is part of a composite work written in 1979 for Rozhdestvensky. The other movements were by Denisov, Pärt and the conductor himself. This is a fascinating piece which drifts from Bach to Weill in tango mode. It is still within hailing distance of the super-neo-Baroque works Schnittke wrote for Gidon Kremer and which in the 1970s made his name in the West.

By the way the duo are Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrova. They have collaborated in this form since 1995. They performed at the 2002 Olympic Games ceremony at Salt Lake City.

Intriguing to see Oue spreading his wings beyond the confines of Reference Recordings and his Minnesota Orchestra.

Thorough notes which lavish much reflection and philosophical musing on Schnittke. A pity that there was not more historical background on the Martinů work.

Lively recording. Strong performances. If the repertoire appeals there is no reason to wait.

Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.