Martinu: Symphony No. 4; Estampes; Le Départ

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COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Fuga Libera
ALBUM TITLE: Martinu
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Estampes;
Le Départ
PERFORMER: National Orchestra of Belgium/
Walter Weller
CATALOGUE NO: FUG 531

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The yearly appearance of Martinu’s first five symphonies between 1942 and1946 is a remarkable tale of productivity in difficult times for the composer. While they clearly display his shift away from an interest in Baroque concerto processes to the rigours of motivic development, they also reflect his own changing emotions during the war years. Having been driven to the United States by the Nazi invasion of France, homesickness and anxiety for friends and family in Czechoslovakia were constant companions. The Fourth Symphony, however, shows a clear upturn in his emotional state, prompted by the approaching victorious conclusion of the conflict in Europe. Radiance is a word quite rightly often used about the work: however opaque the scoring may look on the page it has throughout a pervasive luminosity. Walter Weller is, for the most part, very persuasive in moulding the rich vein of lyricism which is such a rewarding aspect of the Symphony; he also delivers a very perceptive account of Martinu’s last orchestral work, the elusive Estampes. Less convincing is his way with the more driving, motivic stretches in the Symphony which at times emerge as a touch mechanical, although the climax of the finale is very well judged. While certainly attractive in many ways, and well recorded, Weller’s reading falls considerably short of Belohlávek’s superbly balanced and insightful performance on Supraphon. Jan Smaczny