SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
MARTINU: The Piano Trios. = Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 3; Bergerettes for Piano Trio – Kinsky Trio Prague – Praga Digitals
Published on November 29, 2009
MARTINU: The Piano Trios. = Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 3; Bergerettes for Piano Trio – Kinsky Trio Prague – Praga Digitals multichannel SACD PRD/DSD 250256 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) seems to be largely overlooked by some classical music biographers. Alex Ross, in his award winning book, The Rest is Noise, barely mentions him, and then, only in the context of works written in the 1920s that had titles that drew attention to themselves – his composition Half-Time portrayed a football match. The esteemed biographer Harold C. Schonberg in his 1997 revision of The Lives of Great Composers, doesn’t even acknowledge his existence. Maybe it’s because he wrote over 400 compositions in virtually all musical genres, including operas. But if there ever was a composer worthy of discovery, Martinu is a prime candidate.
His works, especially those written after 1923, when he moved to Paris, integrates a mastery of counterpoint in the Baroque style with a talent for expressing joy composed in accessible twentieth-century musical language. Learning from his teacher Roussel, Martinu fused neoclassical elements, traces of Czech melodies and development of musical cells into a rhythmically exuberant, fast paced oeuvre that mirrors our contemporary urban life.
These four piano trios trace the development of his style from the early 1930s to the 1950s. Bergerettes (Shepard’s Song), written in a stressful time in the composer’s life, when he emigrated to the United States, is, amazingly, resplendently joyful and happy. It bustles with mirth, peaceful passages and bucolic delight. The First Piano Trio is rhythmically vibrant, neo baroque work written in concerto-grosso style, using repeated motivic cells as a unifying device.
By the 1950s, Martinu was living in the United States, and his style began to integrate his early use of Czech lyricism with his later energetically rhythmic manner. The Second Trio’s (1950) outer movements burst with energy as well as lyrical invention. But the mystical ethereal slow movement is the most original on this disc, haunting in its melodic creativity. The Trio No. 3 (1951) is the work of a mature composer who has fused his different musical characteristics into a unified work of variety, complexity and depth. The plaintive second movement contains both relaxed mellifluence and muted tension.
The Kinsky Trio Prague performs these works idiomatically, with musical accuracy and effusive exuberance. The SACD sound raises an excellent recording to one of demonstration quality. Its depth, presence, and balance establishes a benchmark for piano trio recordings. Don’t miss this one!
– Robert Moon