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Martinu: The Complete Piano Trios

Martinu: The Complete Piano Trios

Recorded at the Martínek Studio, Prague, between May 2015 and January 2016


Martinu:

Piano Trio No. 1 'Cinq pièces brèves', H. 193

Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, H327

Bergerettes - Five Pieces for Violin, Cello and Piano

Piano Trio No. 3 in C major, H332


Smetana Trio: Jitka Čechová (piano), Jiří Vodička (violin) & Jan Páleníček (cello)

The complete set of Bohuslav Martinů’s piano trios affords a fascinating insight into the constant transformations of his musical idiom from the early 1930s to the 1950s, also giving testimony to the composer as a human and his particular mindset.

The first, five-movement, trio, Cinq pièces brèves (1930) was written in a carefree manner (within a mere ten days) and intuitively. It is the very first Martinů piece to reflect his penchant for Neo--‐Baroque music, so salient a trait of his later creations. The second trio, Bergerettes, comes across as surprisingly light-hearted, given the time of its coming into being – in February 1939, a month prior to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and half a year before the outbreak of World War II ... The last two piano trios, composed in the 1950s, bear all the features of Martinů’s mature musical phraseology. Trio No. 2, completed in 1950, ranks among the apices of Martinů’s Neo--‐Classicist period, while the structurally more complex Trio No. 3 (also known as the “Grand Trio”) has a concertante nature.

The recording of the complete Martinů trios was made by the renowned Smetana Trio, who masterfully render all the colour shades, from airiness to the broad lyrical cantilena typical of Martinů’s late works.

The first new Supraphon album of the complete Martinů piano trios in more than 30 years …

“The virtuoso demands of this hugely attractive music are meat and drink to these wonderful Czech musicians, including Jitka Cechova. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a better way to get to know this exhilarating and fresh music than from the hands, heads and hearts of the Smetanas.” Sunday Times, 3rd April 2016

“it's already obvious that the music for piano trio performed here by the Smetana Trio is going straight on the shortlist for 2016. Martinu's chamber music reveals originality at every turn; there's so much of it, but each new discovery — sonata, duo, trio, quartet, serenade — seems to unveil a gem….It's hard to imagine more ardent champions for this visceral, unpredictable music. And clear, warm sound is exactly what we've come to expect from the Supraphon label over the years.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2016 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - June 2016

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2017

Chamber Winner

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Janacek: Sinfonietta

Janacek: Sinfonietta


Janacek:

Sinfonietta

Martinu:

Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca, H. 352

Parables after the poems by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry & Georges Neveu


Building a Library

First Choice - July 2017

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Dvorak: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 13

Dvorak: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 13


Dvorak:

String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106 (B192)

String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 'American'


"I’m satisfied. It went quickly... " Antonín Dvořák jotted down at the end of the sketch for his String Quartet Op. 96. The work, one of the most beautiful quartet pieces in the history of music, originated in America hard on the heels of the “New World” Symphony. I wanted to write for once something very melodious and simple, and I always kept Papa Haydn before my eyes. The American critics lavished it with praise: “Why didn’t Dvořák come here earlier, since he can write such great music in America.” The “American” quartet, and, perhaps to an even greater extent, the subsequent quartet, Op. 106, the first composition Dvořák created after his return from America, are a heartfelt matter for the youthful Pavel Haas Quartet.

In the wake of the previous, highly acclaimed recordings of the complete quartet works of Janáček, Haas and Prokofiev (Classic FM Gramophone Award, BBC Music Magazine Award, MIDEM Cannes Classical Award, etc.), the ensemble displays its outstanding qualities performing the paramount Dvořák pieces too: equilibrium between precision and spontaneity, remarkable interplay and the “solo” potential of all the musicians.

The most popular Dvořák’s chamber repertoire performed by one of the world’s most exciting string quartets.

“The Pavel Haas players revel in the turbulence of the opening movement, but they savour the lyricism of the beautiful adagio, the rhythmic energy of the scherzo and the exuberance of the finale’s fiery allegro. Their account of the American Quartet belongs alongside the greatest performances on disc. In this repertoire, they are simply matchless today.” Sunday Times, 14th November 2010 *****

“The Pavel Haas Quartet play with plenty of feeling and they also relish the rhythmic cut and thrust of the Molto vivace third movement, capturing to perfection the more relaxed Trio's sunny spirit.The final opens to a gentle smile then keys up for some dancing exuberance...there's an abundance of varied drama” Gramophone Magazine, December 2010

“Throughout, their understanding of the musical argument is exemplary...at every stage the performers respond with both passion and a clear feeling for musical line...In truth, there are so many details that delight the ear it would be almost impossible to list the all” BBC Music Magazine, December 2010 *****

“there's an arresting energy and atmosphere to the performances and they certainly contain new perspectives...the product is beautifully presented.” Classic FM Magazine, January 2011 ***

“The freshness of the Pavel Haas Quartet's sound and approach is in the main a perfect match for this music: its wide-ranging palette, from intimate whispers to grander, symphonic gestures, is aptly deployed. Its tone is in general sweetly blended, homogenous and with obvious close rapport.” International Record Review, December 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

10th October 2011

GGramophone Awards 2011

Record of the Year

Building a Library

First Choice - April 2011

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - December 2010

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

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Martinu: Cantatas

Martinu: Cantatas


Martinu:

Legend of the Smoke from Potato Fires

Mikes of the Mountains

The Opening of the Wells

Dandelion Romance


Pavla Vykopalova (soprano), Ludmila Hudeckova (contralto), Martin Slavik (tenor), Jiri Bruckler (baritone), Petr Svoboda (baritone), Jaromir Meduna (recitation) & Ivo Kahanek (piano)

Members of the Bennewitz Quartet & Prague Philharmonic Choir, Lukas Vasilek

When Miloslav Bureš sent his first poem Song of the Ruby Spring to Bohuslav Martinů in 1955, he seemed to have touched the deepest spot of the composer’s heart. The poet set his verses into the landscape of the Czech Highlands, the region of Martinů’s childhood and a rich source of his memories. The composer must have identified strongly with the character of the pilgrim returning to his birthplace, because he wrote The Opening of the Springs within nine days. Later he set to music three more poems by Bureš, finishing the last one, Mikeš of the Mountains, half a year before his death. For Martinů, the cantatas represented an important link to his homeland at a time when the political situation and later also his poor health were diminishing his hopes of coming back home. One can only imagine what he felt when he was sitting in Schönenberg, Switzerland, listening to the vinyl record with the first recording of his Opening of the Springs published by Supraphon, or when his friends were sending him reports about the Czech premieres of his works...

Recorded in the Rudolfinum, Prague, October and December 2015

“The Prague choir gets the balance right: vivid character and resonant voices but never saccharine and rhythmically taut. This is the ensemble that premiered three of the cantatas (in a previous guise) and it’s hard to imagine singing of more authority in Martinů’s music.” The Guardian, 15th December 2016 ****

“Baritone Jirí Brückler is superb here, and the top-quality professional Prague Philharmonic Choir master the most harmonically rich cantata of the four, a tale of a girl who doesn’t recognise her long-lost love returning from the wars…valuable messages for our or indeed any time, and superlatively performed. Unmissable” BBC Music Magazine, March 2017 *****

“This is a singularly exotic issue for Czechs and non-Czechs alike...I cannot imagine these cantatas being better performed or recorded than here; Lukáš Vasilek is an outstanding conductor, and the Prague Philharmonic Choir respond to his every interpretative intuition. Very highly recommended.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - March 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - March 2017

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Ostrčil: Jack’s Kingdom

Ostrčil: Jack’s Kingdom


Ostrčil:

Jack’s Kingdom

Ivo Žídek, Jaroslava Vymazalová & Přemysl Kočí

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Václav Neumann

Krizova cesta (Calvary or The Way of the Cross): Variations for large orchestra, Op. 24

Prague Symphony Orchestra, Václav Jiráček


A unique recording of the undeservedly overlooked opera on CD for the very first time.

Recorded in Prague in the Czech Radio, January 1954 (Jack's Kingdom), and at the Rudolfinum, November 19, 20 and 24, 1957 (Calvary).

The complete recording of Jack’s Kingdom, the final opera by Otakar Ostrčil (1879-1935), a remarkable fairy-tale work with an antiwar message, is now being released on CD for the first time.

It is based on L. N. Tolstoy’s short story about a land ruled by the good-natured Ivan (transformed in the opera into Honza, or Jack) who knows not what spite is. In his kingdom, soldiers do not wage wars, yet dance and love, all diseases are cured and people are happy. Honza brings to all the people the miraculous star of compassion, love and peace, possessing so great a power that it even cures the incurable Princess and prevails over the Devil himself. When the opera was premiered in Brno (1934) and subsequently presented in Prague, it gave rise to a conflict between Ostrčil and a part of Czech society.

The present CD features the one and only studio recording of the opera, made in 1954 by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Ivo Žídek, Jaroslava Vymazalová and Přemysl Kočí singing the lead roles. The CD also contains a unique recording of Ostrčil’s Calvary, Op. 24, made in 1957 by the Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Václav Neumann.

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Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2


Smetana:

String Quartet No. 1 in E minor 'From My Life'

String Quartet No. 2 in D minor


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Following their 2014 Gramophone Award-winning recording of Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor 'Death and the Maiden' and the Quintet in C major, the Quartet are returning once again to the work of a Czech composer.

On their new CD the Quartet will be playing Bedřich Smetana’s Quartet No. 1 in E minor 'From My Life' and Quartet No. 2 in D minor.

Pavel Haas Quartet was formed in 2002 and bears the name of Pavel Haas (1899-1944), a Czech composer of the first half of the 20th century. Since 2004 the Quartet has won many prestigious awards, including first place in the Prague Spring International Music Festival, BBC Music Magazine Chamber Choice, the MIDEM Classical Award, and three Gramophone awards.

Gramophone wrote that the Pavel Haas Quartet "represents the best qualities of the Czech tradition – warmth, sonorousness, individuality, intensity.”

“in their native repertoire they are well nigh incomparable. I have not heard an account of “From My Life”...that prepares us so starkly, in its turbulent opening Allegro vivo appassionato, for its tragic outcome...And it’s hard to imagine a more compelling or harrowing take on the less frequently programmed D minor quartet.” Sunday Times, 3rd May 2015

“The PHQ understand absolutely the plasticity of Smetana’s vision and convey it unerringly, unshrinkingly – and in some ways even more convincingly than the Talich, which is saying something. This is extraordinarily bold playing – and they truly capture the sense that Smetana is writing symphonic quartet music.” Gramophone Magazine

Presto Disc of the Week

13th April 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

Winner

GGramophone Awards 2015

Winner - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2015

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2016

Chamber Winner

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Chopin: Nocturnes Nos. 1-19

Chopin: Nocturnes Nos. 1-19


Ivan Moravec (pianio)

One of the first recordings that earned Ivan Moravec acclaim and secured him a position among the finest pianists of the 20th century was the album of the complete Chopin Nocturnes made in 1965 in New York (Steinway) and at Vienna’s Konzerthaus (Bösendorfer) for the Connoisseur Society label. Many critics have branded this recording a benchmark and consider it the ultimate account of the Nocturnes; in the words of Henry Fogel (Fanfare): “This is playing that draws the listener deeply into the music - you are not drawn into Moravec’s achievement, but Chopin’s.” Ivan Moravec presents the Nocturnes in an admirable scale of colours and dynamics (down to astonishingly tender, barely touched tones), with the music flowing so naturally that it seems as though there are no bars or individual notes. Supraphon is rereleasing this legendary recording with a sensitively remastered sound, which brings out to the full the wealth of tone colours of Moravec’s piano.

Ivan Moravec’s account of the legendary Chopin Nocturnes, in a more colourful remastered sound.

Recorded April 1965 in St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University, New York (Nocturnes Nos 1, 4–7, 9, 13, 19, Steinway) and November 1965 in the Mozartsaal of the Konzerthaus, Vienna (Nocturnes Nos 2, 3, 8, 10–12, 14–18, Bösendorfer)

“The sound quality is startlingly good, capturing all the richness, warmth and immediacy of the two instruments..Then there’s the surely peerless singing quality of Moravec’s playing. It allows every piece simply and affectingly to weave its hypnotic, sweetly sad magic.” Sunday Times, 24th June 2012

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Schubert: Death And The Maiden & String Quintet In C Major

Schubert: Death And The Maiden & String Quintet In C Major


Schubert:

String Quintet in C major, D956

with Danjulo Ishizaka (cello)

String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 'Death and the Maiden'


The highly anticipated new recording from the Gramophone Recording of the Year winners in 2011.

Two years on from their award winning Dvorak album, the Pavel Haas Quartet turn their attention to Schubert’s two late masterpiece.

The String Quartet in D minor has a sort of dark cipher encoded within. The title “Death and the Maiden” reflects the quotation from Schubert’s eponymous song in the second movement. The theme of death is also underlined by other quotations and the choice of the key of D minor, which according to the period definition is characterised by “heavy-hearted womanliness, spleen and foreboding”.

Schubert completed his String Quintet in C major for an uncommon formation with two cellos a mere two months before his death. Its instrumentation occasionally gives an almost orchestral impression, with the cello playing a significant role as the bearer of melody.

The Pavel Haas Quartet invited along a distinguished friend to the recording sessions, the exceptional German-Japanese cellist Danjulo Ishizaka, whose qualities were concisely described by Mstislav Rostropovich: “Phenomenal in his technical ability, perfect in his musical creative power”.

“Throughout, their understanding of the musical argument is exemplary...at every stage the performers respond with both passion and a clear feeling for musical line...In truth, there are so many details that delight the ear it would be almost impossible to list the all” BBC Music Magazine

“This album is scalding to the touch. [the Haas's accounts] are irresistible not only for immaculate surfaces, but for effortless engagement of that grief-stricken quality beneath Schubert’s shows of gaiety and even his most serene assurances.” Sunday Times, 15th September 2013

“If CDs had grooves I would already have worn out these marvellous recordings...The young Czechs have the perfect fusion of virtuosity and profundity.” The Times, 21st September 2013 *****

“The Pavel Haas Quartet, with the superb extra cellist Danjulo Ishizaka, even succeed where most other ensembles fail, making the last movement of the String Quintet into something that seems a fitting conclusion to a work whose first three movements are unquestionably supreme...essential listening for anyone who loves Schubert.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013 *****

“The perfect fusion of virtuosity and profundity from the young Czechs of the Pavel Haas Quartet in Schubert. Death and the Maiden is given the more melodramatic reading, but the subtly nuanced performance of the Quintet in C is sublime.” The Times, 14th December 2013

“For me, the performance here ticks all the right boxes. From the opening chords, you feel that these young players are taking you on a journey. Having a clear vision and understanding of the structure of the music, they explore its full emotional range. Warmth and expressive phrasing are a distinguishing hallmark...These young players are a force to be reckoned with” MusicWeb International, December 2013

“we’re treated here to performances of not only great refinement and polish, but also real emotional depth...A combination of subtle elasticity of tempo whilst never slowing too much gives this performance [of Death and the Maiden] great structural coherency from beginning to end.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 23rd December 2013

GGramophone Awards 2014

Winner - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2013

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Mozart: Horn Concertos & Quintet

Mozart: Horn Concertos & Quintet


Mozart:

Horn Quintet in E flat, K407

Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4 (complete)


Radek Baborák (french horn)

Baborák Ensemble

Precious few have as much to say about Mozart’s horn concertos as does the superlative, internationally renowned Czech horn player Radek Baborák, who for a number of years was a soloist of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

An artist with a penchant for seeking out the new, he has joined forces with other outstanding musicians (including Štěpán Kratochvíl, from the Münchner Philharmoniker and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, and Vilém Kionka, from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) so as to interpret the pieces as arranged for horn and string quartet: “I liked the idea of presenting the concertos in the form they may have been heard when Mr. Leutgeb would visit the Mozarts’ home, get together with Mr. Michael Haydn and Mr. Süssmayr, and make music.”

In Mozart’s time, such treatments were quite common (Michael Haydn, for instance, transcribed the Rondo from Concerto No. 3), with their serving to pinpoint the dialogue between the virtuoso parts of the first violin and the horn. According to the preserved correspondence, Mozart tried his hand at the horn, which he found highly amusing. The composer wrote most of his horn works for his older friend, the far-famed virtuoso Joseph Leutgeb. His mocking comments in the score (“Wolfgang Amadé Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and simpleton.”), as well as writing Concerto No. 4 in inks of four colours, bear witness to the close relationship between the two artists. This playfulness and the sheer joy of making music together are duly reflected in this inspiring album, recorded by Radek Baborák and friends.

Following the album’s release, the Baborák Ensemble will be setting out on an extensive autumn tour of Japan. Radek Baborák says: “We’re really looking forward to visiting Japan, it will be our second trip to this musicians’ paradise. The local audiences are very attentive, there will certainly be in attendance a number of my fans, who will be listening carefully to every single note I will play. Yet that which I am looking forward to the most is the complete naturalness with which the Japanese music promoters, be they directors of concert halls, producers or managers, accept the fact that we have come to perform something unique, and how they are able to appreciate it by affording us the necessary scope and respect for our artistry and personalities. Besides playing with the Baborák Ensemble, this year I will also conduct the Tokyo Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic and the Yamagata Chamber Orchestra. Moreover, I will be giving a few solo recitals and appearing at the special concert marking the 100th performance of the Mito Chamber Orchestra, along with Seiji Ozawa. Then, in January, the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra and I will celebrate W. A. Mozart’s birthday. Performing in Japan is a sheer joy!”

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First Choice - September 2017

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Martinu: Epic of Gilgamesh

Martinu: Epic of Gilgamesh

The world premiere recording of the original english version.


Lucy Crowe (soprano)

Czech Philharmonic Prague, Philharmonic Choir Vasilek, Manfred Honeck

The music Martinů created during the last decade of his life demonstrates his penchant for religious and spiritual texts. The idea of setting the epic written 4,500 years ago matured in the composer for 15 years. Although differing boldly from the avant-garde of the 1950s, it is an utterly modern piece, reflecting Martinů’s intense interest in Baroque music and the Notre Dame school. The oratorio, premiered on 23 January 1958 in Basel, was a tremendous success. Its performance in Prague in January 2017 by the Czech Philharmonic and a superb international team of soloists, conducted by Manfred Honeck, brought back to life the work’s English version, based on Reginald Campbell Thompson’s translation.

“I have realised that, notwithstanding the immense progress we have attained … the questions I have come across in the literature of a nation we refer to as primitive still accompany us. They are the questions of friendship, love and death. In the epic of Gilgamesh, we encounter a very acute and almost anxiously distressful yearning to find the answers, which we have been seeking in vain to the present day.”

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Scheduled for release on 20 October 2017. Order it now and we will deliver it as soon as it is available.

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