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Martinů: Double Concertos for Violin & Piano; Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra

Deborah Nemtanu, Sarah Nemtanu, Magali Demesse, Momo Kodama, Mari Kodama; Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra/Lawrence Foster (Pentatone)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
CD_5186658_Martinu_cmyk

Martinů Concerto in D for Two Violins and Orchestra; Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra; Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra
Deborah Nemtanu, Sarah Nemtanu (violin), Magali Demesse (viola), Momo Kodama, Mari Kodama (piano); Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra/Lawrence Foster
Pentatone PTC5186658 (hybridCD/SACD) 62:52 mins

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With releases of the great Czech composer Martinů’s music now proliferating, we stand a better chance of assessing the true masterpieces in his prolific and always lively output. The biggest challenge here is the Concerto for Two Pianos of 1943, a desolate year in Martinů’s American exile which also produced the powerful Third Symphony. Its status was apparent a few years back when performed at a BBC Prom by a Czech duo and Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Here, the Kodama sisters’ approach with Lawrence Foster and the very fine Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra (who knew?) is less mellow, more hard-hitting – essential in the powerful and unpredictable Adagio, the dark heart of the whole disc – but also alive to the magical fluidity of the dizzying outer movements. The ‘emotional and rational strength’ the Kodamas write about in the booklet note, the intuition necessary, are perfectly realised.

Similar sleight of hand is on display from the Nemtanu siblings in the Concerto for Two Violins, dazzling in the cadenza which comes as something of a surprise after the relatively congenial bubblings of the Concerto’s earlier pages. Its darkness and light are more evenly distributed than in the latest work on the disc, the Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola of 1952, the latter work’s first movement bright and bucolic, second far more ambiguous, but with a wonderful homage to Dvořák’s Cello Concerto as its homecoming. Magali Demesse is a less imposing figure than Maxim Rysanov on the recording of choice, but her complicity with the orchestra is always apparent, and the disc as a whole is another unmissable addition to the Martinů discography.

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David Nice