When Jirí Belohlávek and Chandos parted company, it ended one of the two most promising partnerships in the recording of Czech music of the early digital era. With a handful of discs of Janácek and Suk and Martinu, Belohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic alerted an international public to the heights and depths of twentieth century Czech music. Worse still, they parted mid-project and Belohlávek's recordings of Martinu's symphonies stopped with only a "First," "Fourth," and "Sixth," but no "Second," "Third," and "Fifth."
This new disc of the "Third" and "Fourth" by Belohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic on the Czech label Supraphon re-starts the cycle but newer and arguably better than before. Newer certainly: Belohlávek has undertaken to record the revised scores and these versions do sound slightly tarter and more pungent. Arguably better in some ways: Belohlávek's earlier "Fourth" was brightly buoyant and darkly luminous, and although his current recording is surely more driven, it is perhaps a bit too bright and more hazy than luminous. Certainly better in other ways: Belohlávek's premiere recording of the "Third" is one of the work's best performances: hard but brilliant, driven but balanced, and with the full measure of the work's fury and tragedy. Supraphon's early twenty first century digital sound is rounder and not as assertive as Chandos' late twentieth century digital sound, but it lacks the immediacy and impact of the Chandos recording at its most aggressive. Anyone who loves orchestral music of the twentieth century and does not know the works will be excited, astounded, and moved.