Martinu, Schnittke

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Martinu,Schnittke
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Concerto for Two Pianos
PERFORMER: Genova & Dimitrov Piano Duo, NDR Radio PO Hannover/Eiji Oue
CATALOGUE NO: 999 804-2
At first sight Schnittke and Martinu might not seem an obvious pairing. Schnittke’s stylistic span, from thorough-going modernism to near pastiche, is a long way from Martinu’s integrated, neo-tonal idiom. On the other hand, both composers share an interest in process as a means of generating impetus. Composed in 1943, Martinu’s Two-Piano Concerto is almost a pendant work to his Second Cello Concerto begun the following year. Both works are predominantly optimistic and often richly lyrical, although the Two-Piano Concerto is a little spikier. The two soloists respond to all these qualities with great verve and enthusiasm which, along with some alert orchestral accompanying, makes for a memorable performance of this unjustly neglected work.

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The Duo is more than equal to the very different demands of the Schnittke concerto. Here the conductor is more crucial in determining the line and development of the work; Eiji Oue’s grip on the proceedings ensures an impressive level of coherence. The two remaining pieces show very different sides of Schnittke: slightly off-colour Romanticism facing down the aggressively modern in his Hommage à Grieg and Baroque style cosying up to popular dance in the Polyphonic Tango. It is an intriguing mix and well worth investigating. Jan Smaczny