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  • Martinu: Frescoes of Piero della Francesca / Brahms: Symphony No. 2
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Martinu: Frescoes of Piero della Francesca / Brahms: Symphony No. 2


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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: BBC Music
  • ASIN: B000OY1XSK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,468 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

BBC Music audio CD with works by Martinu and Brahms' Symphony No. 2

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This CD came with the August 1999 issue of BBC Music Magazine, and features interactive PC CD-ROM material. The performances are from two separate live concerts at The Proms, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jiri Belohlavek. At the time of these recordings, Belohlavek was the orchestra's principal guest conductor (from 1995 to 2000), and later became its chief conductor (from 2006 to 2012). He's not the kind of conductor who pushes the buttons and goes for cheap thrills, which can lead to an occasionally stolid manner at times.

The Brahms is from the July 30, 1998 Prom, given a straightforward, no-nonsense reading, as is usual with Belohlavek. Since Brahms symphony recordings are fairly commonplace, this one ranks as good, though not a world-beater, so the rating is about 3.5 stars here. What puts the overall rating of this CD to 4 stars is the inclusion of Martinu's "Frescoes of Piero della Francesca", where this performance was from the August 26, 1998 Prom. In fact, this performance was the first ever of this Martinu work at The Proms. The works by Piero della Francesca that influenced Martinu here were the frescoes depicting the Story of the True Cross, in particular 2 panels that represent the Queen of Sheba (first movement) and the night-time scene of the Emperor Constantine asleep in his tent (second movement). Those familiar with Martinu's music will recognize his particular orchestral sonic fingerprint of the piano-sounding motor rhythms that underpin the texture at the start. The BBC Symphony likewise do a fine job in the Martinu.
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By Peter P. Fuchs on January 10, 2013
I bought over eighty of these BBC Cds recently in an auction lot, and boy has it been fun going through them. I love the surprises. Jiri Belohavek's studio recordings of Martinu have been real duds, to my ears. Not this time, live. The Brahms Second here is consistent with that dud aesthetic, though. But then there is the Martinu Frescoes, and somehow the conductor became really inspired. Maybe it is because, as the other reviewer mentions, that this was a premiere for the Proms with the Martinu Frescoes. Is that what it takes to engage these elite musicians?? Some special "event"?? Go figure. At any rate, somehow this is just a vibrant and carefully shaped reading of the Frescoes, and the orchestra is coaxed into playing with real vigor and shimmering energy. You would never guess the orchestra or conductor had it in 'em after listening to the Brahms. Just skip over that, and get straight to Arezzo.
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Both of these reviewers, Peter Fuchs and G.C., have this right, I think. The Brahms performance is kind of so-what. The Frescoes are another matter, and you feel the exalted level of involvement by the musicians in the first measure. The curious thing is that, from the BBC audience, it's the Brahms that gets the big ovation. Anyway, five stars for the Frescoes alone, for as long as you can have the disc at less than the shipping charge. This is stupendous music, beautifully played and recorded, and versions of the Frescoes are not so thick on the ground.
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