Martinu: Piano Quartet No. 1; Oboe Quartet; Viola Sonata No. 1; String Quintet

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COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Quartet No. 1; Oboe Quartet; Viola Sonata No. 1; String Quintet
PERFORMER: Joel Marangella (oboe)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553916
These enterprising discs, exploring the richly rewarding repertoire that is Martinu’s chamber music, are to be welcomed. The Lahti Ensemble enjoys the benefit of excellent sound, and their playing is excellent too (although their programme is practically identical to that offered by the Dartington Ensemble on Hyperion). Their performance of the Flute Trio is everything chamber music should be: cleanly articulated and with first-rate teamwork. The strength of the Nonet, completed in 1959 just a month before Martinu’s death, is captured fully. But here, and in La revue de cuisine, there is a lack of sparkle; the latter’s Charleston movement, for instance, is nothing like raucous enough – the Dartington performance is better.

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The Piano Quartet, composed in America in 1942, contains the best music on either of these discs. It fares well in the Naxos performance, with a splendid sweep in the outer movements, while the Adagio has great eloquence. This alone is worth the price of the disc, but there is much else of value besides. The little-known String Quintet – I believe this is its first recording – is a substantial work; and the Oboe Quartet and Viola Sonata should not be lightly dismissed. Terry Barfoot