Martinu: Complete Piano Works, Vol. 3: Piano Sonata; Fantaisie et toccata; Etudes and Polkas

COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Martinu
WORKS: Complete Piano Works, Vol. 3: Piano Sonata; Fantaisie et toccata; Etudes and Polkas
PERFORMER: Giorgio Koukl (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557919
This new volume of Martin? piano works is a near-complete delight. With the exception of the Three Czech Dances from 1926, all of the works date from the composer’s maturity and have a clearly unified stylistic character. The broad-boned Fantasy and Toccata from 1940 gives little hint of the apprehension Martin? must have felt as he awaited, in distinctly fraught circumstances, the chance to escape Europe for the USA; it builds fruitfully on Baroque processes without ever seeming to pastiche them and in Giorgio Koukl’s hands has both power and humour. Equally impressive is his performance of the three-movement Sonata from 1954: his treatment of the rapt, often meditative opening Poco Allegro is superb and the remaining movements are affecting without sacrificing Martin?’s strong sense of underlying development; this is a reading that creates a new benchmark on record clearly surpassing Radoslav Kvapil’s serviceable account.

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The three volumes of Etudes and Polkas – nearly all short, pungently characterised movements – are treated with similar attention to detail. Koukl has a clear vision for each one’s expressive language and there is a huge amount to enjoy on this richly satisfying and well-recorded disc.

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Jan Smaczny