The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (305): 2 pianists better than 1

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (305): 2 pianists better than 1


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2021

The marvellous Martinu concerto for 2 pianos, so seldom heard.



  • Nijinsky says:

    How long before the FIRST was one too many!?

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Practically everything by Martinu is marvelous.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Could I ask – is this the new presentation of articles on SD ?
    Just one at a time above each other, rather than (I think)4 horizontally ?

    Maybe it’s just temporary – or maybe you’re trying to optimise for readers using a phone. But it’s quite tiring as a reader on a laptop scrolling like mad !

    Any chance we can go back to the old format ? Thanks

  • e says:

    Marvelous — and the way it is filmed, with both keyboards
    and all four hands visible, is also marvelous! Thanks, on a
    very rainy Paris Sunday.

  • buxtehude says:

    A very poor performance IMO. It gets seriously out of sync and fails to catch fire in its most rhythmically intense passages.

    Try this! (recorded on a lower budget alas)

    • Paul Carlile says:

      How strange. I’d have said that the strong point of this performance is exactly that it really “takes off” and catches fire much more than the excellently clear but rather “straight” interpretation you kindly linked. In fact, most of the faults here stem from throwing caution to the winds, hence some chaotic moments and balance, particularly the hell-for-leather end of 1st movement, and true, Marielle doesn’t look too pleased with herself! But in the 2nd movement, i find the woodwind discussions (from abt 8.48) much more colored, mystic and rich with extra striking contrast with the pianists’ dialog.
      Fiery to a fault- yes, certainly. “Poor” – well, we’ll have to agree to differ!
      I also admire the Santa Cecila and Pappano for convicingly mastering the particular Martinu sonority and idiom i their own way. Having grown up on adored Supraphon LPs, it’s refreshing to hear an Italianate take on this.

      • buxtehude says:

        Thank you for calling my attention to the orchestra. I’ve been focused on the pairs of pianists, a husband/wife in my links playing with an orchestra found on tour, and hard to hear, as well.

        If you compare the keyboards at around 21 minutes (the sisters) vs just after 7 min of my 2nd link, you’ll see what I was noticing. They seem to be reading different scores, no? Also I think the Pappano tempi are way too fast.

        Perhaps my opinion will still seem lacking but no reason for us Martinu lovers to fight! Especially when the Czechs are almost always the best anyway.

        Oddity: the many comments here praising the videography, which I personally (from professional background) pay a lot of attention to and is okay here, but shouldn’t matter musically, isn’t that so?

        S Richter put it to Monsaignon in that very interesting documentary about him: why film at all? Visuals show only “work,” as Richter called it. And the sisters seem to be having an awful time!

  • Paul Carlile says:

    A marvellous video, in every respect; the split screen orch/2 pianists, the sheer animal energy and passion of all concerned. Even with a couple of chaotic moments, most of this comes off fantastically well, with rythmic details not heard in standard recordings. This marked (imo), a return to form for Les Soeurs, who’d traversed a rather dry, empty period, spoilt by gimmicky ideas and shallow collaborations. The sensational sisters have been Martinu faithfuls anyway, as i remember, one of their earliest LP’s had the Three Czech Dances, with Hindemith 2piano sonata as coupling! Pappano has done great work with innovative programming in Rome; Bravo!
    A Favorite Noise. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Larry W says:

    Wow! Martinu is one of the most original 20th Century composers.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    What a neat piece of music. I too liked how it was filmed.

    Too often for works including concertos for two pianos they leave the lids on and up for both pianos facing each other – I think it’s better as here to have just the one lid help project the sound outwards for both pianos, rather than the common situation of one piano projecting out to the audience, but the other projecting away from the audience.

    Two years ago I heard a premiere performance on a newly built double piano, constructed entirely by piano technician Peter Nehlsen — he calls it the Omega double piano (1800 pounds!) — and with keyboards at both ends, and thus a duplicate set of strings with all the sympathetic vibration that implies, and one lid to project out the sound (although as Nehlsen pointed out it did mean the treble of one keyboard was in the unfamiliar position of being nearest the lid and thus projecting more than the usual) it was a very satisfactory blend of sound. The pianists were Andrew Armstrong and Inna Faliks and the two “halves” were demonstrated separately and then as a duo. Nehlsen met his goal of more projection and power than you usually hear in a two piano performance.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Fun fact: the Sisters lived underneath actor Dirk Bogarde in London in the late 80s, and he was driven mad, Mad, MAD! by their banging, Banging, BANGING! He was thrilled when they moved out.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      What a pity Dirk Bogarde was unlikely to be able to take advantage of les soeurs banging, banging, BANGING underneath him. Lucky fellow (not to be spoonerose!), that they were not on top of him…

      And….”fun fact”…not to be spoonerose either!