Martinu: La revue de cuisine; Five Madrigal Stanzas; Madrigal Sonata

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COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Hyperion Dyad
WORKS: La revue de cuisine; Five Madrigal Stanzas; Madrigal Sonata
PERFORMER: Dartington Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDD 22039 Reissue (1983-92)
Martinu’s chamber music forms a large and interesting body of work. In addition to his seven string quartets, he composed all manner of pieces, often using unusual instrumental combinations.

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Both these recordings enjoy the benefit of excellent sound, and both feature playing which is first rate, too. The Dartington Ensemble, in its attractive two-CD compilation, captures the knotty strength of the Nonet, which was completed in 1959, just a month before Martinu’s death. In La revue de cuisine (1927), there is plenty of sparkle, particularly in the appealing Charleston movement. And the same is true of the American performance, which has a bolder, more direct approach.

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The various instrumental madrigals, for duo and trio combinations of wind and strings, are charming, lyrical pieces, in which the Dartington players capture just the right atmosphere, making the most of the music’s inventiveness. The same might be said of the Bohemian Ensemble in the early Quartet (1924), for the bizarre combination of clarinet, horn, cello and side-drum, while the fluent Sonatine for clarinet, composed 30 years later, is beautifully played by Michele Zukovsky. She and her colleagues are members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and they perform quite brilliantly. Terry Barfoot