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LEBRECHT LISTENS | The Nemtanu Sisters Give Us Another Reason To Get Into Martinu

By Norman Lebrecht on March 23, 2018

Martinu: Double concertos (Pentatone)

★★★★ (out of five)

It feels like I’ve spent half my life trying to persuade people that the next composer they should discover is Bohuslav Martinu. A Czech of limitless melodic permutations, he takes the legacies of Dvorak and Janacek forward into an early modern idiom, infused by a decade of living in Paris. I know no work of Martinu’s that outlasts my interest. He is incapable of being boring. This jam-packed recording presents three of his most scintillating works. If they don’t convert you to Martinu, nothing will.

The concerto for two violins and orchestra are played blazingly by sisters Deborah and Sarah Nemtanu, French Romanians with geographic roots close to the composer’s. The concerto for two pianos and orchestra are played by Momo and Mari Kodama, Japanese sisters of French orientation. In between, Martinu’s Rhapsody-Concerto for viol and orchestra is played by Magali Demesse, principal viola of the Marseille Opera.

Given that I am predisposed to love Martinu, I was nonetheless taken aback by the passion of these performances. I have five favourite recordings of the Rhapsody-Concerto – now, make that six. The Demesse interpretation has a deep voluptuousness and the Marseille opera orchestra, conductor Lawrence Foster, add an Italianate tinge to Martinu’s middle-Europeanism. Dammit, the playing is so sexy it hurts.

The Nemtanus, a more athletic pair, capture an edgier eroticism, a whiff of danger in the game of love. And the Kodamas add a percussive threat to the pursuit. I haven’t enjoyed a record this much in months.

Martinu: Double concertos (Pentatone) is available from amazon.ca.


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