Ensemble Calliopée

Bohuslav Martinu: H. 136 [Includes DVD]

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Giving a recording the title H. 136 may seem odd, but the fact that the featured work is a previously unrecorded string trio by Bohuslav Martinu from 1924 bearing the catalog number H. 136 explains everything. Performed by the French chamber ensemble Ensemble Calioppée, it is coupled with performances of the composer's String Quintet from 1927, his Piano Quartet from 1942, and his Musique de Chambre No. 1 (Fêtes Nocturnes) from 1959. H. 136 is a lively, lovely, and very lyrical neo-classical work from Martinu's early years in Paris, a work that deserves to be ranked with the composer's finest chamber music. All the pieces here receive exemplary performances; heavy when they need to be (the war-time Piano Quartet's Adagio), light when they need to be (the outer movements of the jazz age Piano Quintet), and charming all the time (but particularly in the Fêtes Nocturnes' gracefully airy melodies). Although some listeners may prefer the slightly more soulful performances of Czech musicians in these three latter works, the performances by Ensemble Calioppée are beautifully played and deeply committed. Alpha Productions' digital sound is clear, clean, crisp, and vivid.

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