- Piano Quintet No. 1, H. 229
- Piano Quintet No. 2, H. 298
- Sonata for 2 violins & piano, H. 213
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Not for the listener coming to the music of Bohuslav Martinu for the first time -- surely one of the six symphonies is a more appropriate place to start -- and not for the listener who already knows Martinu's symphonies and is coming to his chamber music for the first time -- surely one of the seven string quartets or possibly one of the three piano trios is a more appropriate place to start. This disc coupling the Czech-French-American composer's two piano quintets along with his "Sonata for two violins and piano" is a wonderful addition to the Martinu discography for those listeners who already know and love his music. In their different ways, both quintets are characteristic of the composer: the "First" from 1933 is a lovely little neo-Classical work with hints of Bohemian folk-song in its themes, while the "Second" from 1944 is a large-scale neo-Romantic work with intimations of tragedy and triumph in its developments. And both works are drastically under-represented on disc: when this disc was released in early 2007, there was only one other extant recording of the works available. Thankfully, these performances by the Martinu Quartet plus pianist Karel Kosárek are first-rate: the players grasp the composer's lyrical themes, effervescent rhythms, luminous colors, and allusive forms and express them with complete conviction. Coupled with a bright and sunny recording of the witty sonata, this may not be the place to start with Martinu, but listeners who already know and love the composer's music will be more than pleased. Naxos' recording made in Studio No. 1 of the Czech Radio is crisp and close.