- Piano Concerto No. 2, H. 237
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in D major, H. 149
- Piano Concerto No. 4 ("Incantations"), H. 358
Begin with the performances here: they're superb. The continuing high standards of musical life in the Czech Republic are on display here: the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra of Zlín has the feel for Martinu's style that one would expect of a specialist ensemble, but a much cleaner sound and sense of ensemble that you would normally hear in an orchestra from a city of 75,000 people, otherwise best known for Bata shoes. Prague-born Swiss pianist Giorgio Koukl, who points out that he and Martinu both got out of Czechoslovkia just ahead of invading armies, 30 years apart, is an admirable interpreter of the Czech composer who fused a sprightly French neo-classicism with a Czech attitude toward rhythm. All three of these piano concertos are crowd-pleaseres and deserve wider exposure. The two-movemet "Piano Concerto No. 4, Incantation," composed during one of Martinu's stints in the U.S. in 1956, is a sort of dry Czech take on American movie music. Of the greatest interest are the two earlier concertos, written between the wars and describable, unlike so many other works of the period, as joyous. Sample the finale of the "Piano Concerto No. 1" of 1926 (track 5), which transcends the neo-Baroque trend of the time with an irrepressible vigor. It's a great pleasure. This all-Czech production, recorded at the House of Arts in Zlín, continues to suggest the riches of Eastern European music between the wars; composers from this part of the world synthesized the various experiments undertaken in larger musical centers into convincing and lasting wholes.