C0370. GENNADI ROZHDESTVENSKY Cond. USSR State S.O.: 'Fantaisies symphoniques' Symphony #6; Symphony #5 (both Martinu). (England) Russia Revelation 10005, Live Performance, 17 May, 1985. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 5032636100057
“Bohuslav Martinu managed to become not only the greatest Czech composer of his generation, but a major international figure, known especially for his concerti and chamber music. His work tends to command attention from its opening bars. Its rhythmically vital and singing style recalls both Antonín Dvorák and Igor Stravinsky.
Martinu began as a follower of Claude Debussy, a rather eccentric choice in the Prague of that time – the major figures having been Dvorák and Richard Strauss. He moved to Paris and became part of the avant-garde there. He experimented with jazz, a Bartókian rhapsodic style, and neoclassic fun-and-games in the manner of ‘Les Six’. He comes more and more under the influence of Stravinsky, but unlike many others becomes less like Stravinsky and more Czech. Perhaps he saw the relation of Russian folk music to Stravinsky's highly sophisticated and knowing musical approach and figured out his artistic salvation. Whatever, Czech folk influences become subject to a neoclassical musical view. At this point, we get such works as the Suites for string orchestra, Inventions for orchestra, the first cello concerto, the concerto for string quartet and orchestra, the second piano concerto, the concertino for piano trio and orchestra, and the opera MIRACLE OF OUR LADY. The period culminates in the late 1930s with such powerful works as the opera JULIETTA, the cantata BOUQUET OF FLOWERS, TRE RICERCARI, and the relentless Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano, and timpani.
During World War II, Martinu fled to the United States. His work opened up emotionally, without losing its considerable craft. He became a major twentieth-century symphonist, writing four works in this genre during the war (he ended up with six). In this period, the work sings like it never did before or since. Outstanding works include the Symphony #4, Violin Concerto #2, Cello Concerto #2, Field Mass, Memorial to Lidice, the piano quartet, Violin Sonata #3, and the trio for flute, cello, and piano. The postwar period renewed his interest in vocal music. It includes such pieces as ’The Prophecy of Isaiah’ and ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ and culminates in his opera on Kazantzakis's THE GREEK PASSION. The two major orchestral works of this last phase are his sixth symphony and ’Three Frescoes of Piero della Francesca’.“
- Steve Schwartz, classical.net
“…in this age of technically proficient but carbon-copy, cookie-cutter conductors, Rozhdestvensky is one of the few remaining podium talents who stands out for the individuality of his conducting style and interpretations….Like Knappertsbusch and Beecham, Rozhdestvensky is not a fanatic for rehearsal and…rehearsal sessions…[canceling] them for fear that over-rehearsing would kill the spontaneity of the performance.”
- Lawrence Hansen, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2008