This is the final release in Naxos's Martinu Symphonic cycle and the first I've heard. It's excellent news that an inexpensive series exists - the Martinu discography is notoriously changeable - because this is a body of work that deserves close and consistently involved scrutiny. In the 3rd Symphony [...] Fagen piles on huge dark sonorities - most impressive in its way but emerging as generic and gestural. Nevertheless it's good to hear the clarity of Martinu's favoured orchestral piano for once. Fagen's flautist is straight here with some nice plinking accompaniment [...] . The succeeding fugal section [...] is more of a romanticised interlude, rather inaptly sitting on the fabric of the music - a syntactical error, I think. [...] Fagen is too fitful, too impassive [...] and insufficiently determined to delineate Martinu's multifaceted writing.
What is true of the 3rd is truer of the 5th. [...] In the final movement [...Fagen...] employs a subtle range of dynamics here, well caught by the engineers, and is excellent at bringing out the composer's bluffness, especially in the transition passage to the allegro [...]. Fagen ends well, capturing the rather abrupt and disconcerting conclusion with real understanding.
[Fagen's...] is a cogent and cohesive traversal of these symphonies [...]. Fagen is a sensitive and sensible guide - these are certainly not shattering accounts but they are more than merely worthwhile.