Martinu: Chamber Works: Piano Quartet, H288; Quartet, H315; Duo No. 2, H371; Piano Trio No. 3, H332

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COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Chamber Works: Piano Quartet, H288; Quartet, H315; Duo No. 2, H371; Piano Trio No. 3, H332
PERFORMER: George Caird (oboe); Schubert Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10551

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Martinu’s huge output of chamber music contains a fair number of masterpieces. This excellently recorded selection presents two of the best and the not quite so good. The Piano Quartet is one of the finest works from Martinu’s extended stay in America through the 1940s.

Given that Martin∞ was on the verge of composing a series of symphonies, it is no surprise to find a high level of intensive motivic development in the first movement, but there is also room for lyricism in the slow movement, and in the finale a rich vein of fantasy, strongly reminiscent of his opera Julietta.

The other major work presented here is the Third Piano Trio, also composed in America; one of Martin∞’s most profound works with a deeply memorable slow movement. 

The Schubert Ensemble responds superbly to the Piano Quartet and the Trio with a clear sense of involvement in Martin∞’s musical language and their performances of the slow movements are particularly memorable.

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The players are rather less convincing in the amiable, if slightly aimless, Quartet for oboe, strings and piano. Nevertheless, this collection is well worth considering for the Piano Quartet and the Piano Trio, as well as the attractive Duo for violin and cello. Jan Smaczny