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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The First Quartet lasts almost 40 minutes and is known as the ‘French’ (the nickname was Martinů’s own) and what it lacks in individuality it makes up for in craftsmanship. The Second Quartet (1925) is more concentrated and more complex, and its greater density of incident reflects the influence of Roussel, with whom Martinů was studying. The fill-up is a remarkably accomplished first recording of Tri jezdci, which was written when the composer was twelve. The Martinů Quartet play with spirit and the recording is decent: fresh and lifelike without being outstanding.

Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, March 2002

"The Martinu Quartet offers fluent performances."

Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, October 2000

"Bohuslav Martinu's first two quartets (1912, 1917) are now lost. What is considered his First Quartet was written in 1918 for a group formed from the Czech Philharmonic. A young friend of Martin?'s was its leader and had just gotten him a job plying in the orchestra. It is a long quartet (39 minutes) and lacks the organized conciseness of the later quartets, yet it has some of Martinu's hallmarks, even though it sounds more like Ravel.

"The Second Quartet was written in Paris in 1925 when Martin?'s was studying with Albert Roussel. It is more tightly organized and sounds much more like Martinu.

"The filler, the Three Horsemen, is Martinu's earliest surviving composition. It was written in 1902 when he was a 12-year-old. The story is that three riders brought home the story of the burning of Jan Hus in 1417. Martinu's was obviously fired by this tale. The themes are well handled, though without most characteristics of the composer. It is certainly a welcome addition to the recorded literature."

Andrew Clarke
, August 2000

"Martinu was so prolific that large parts of his output remain fairly obscure. Of his seven string quartets, only a couple make occasional concert hall appearances. The Martinu Quartet present the first two quartets in heartfelt performances. The First owes much to Ravel and Debussy, but it has some delightfully Bohemian touches, while the Second reflects a more original mind."

Scott Paulin
Barnes & Noble, June 2000

"Even before Bohuslav Martinu left his Czech homeland to study in Paris in 1923, the allure of French music must have seduced him. Just listen to the fascinating synthesis of Dvorak and Janacek with Debussy and Ravel in his String Quartet No. 1 from 1918, a mix of Bohemian folk flavor with impressionist harmony. This first volume in a set of the complete Martinu string quartets also includes a promising piece of juvenilia dating from his 12th year, the pictorial Three Horsemen. But Martinu's mature and distinctly original voice starts to emerge with his Second Quartet (1925), a product of his Paris years. Mischievous and eccentric humor surrounds the dark brooding of the central slow movement, and Martinu has streamlined his thinking; this work is half as long as the First Quartet but more powerfully expressive. The members of the Martinu Quartet obviously have their namesake's music well under their skin, giving this survey an auspicious launch, and Naxos' budget price makes for an even more irresistible encounter with Martinu's beguiling world of sound."

Jan Smaczny
BBC Music Magazine, January 2000

"Martinu wrote the First String Quartet in 1918 at the height of his enthusiasm for modern French music and, for all of its derivative qualities, it is an engaging work, full of confidence. The Martinu Quartet's performance has a great sense advocacy and insight, particularly in the slow movement and finale. In the formative Second String Quartet, written under the influence of Roussel, Debussy is a presence, notably in the introduction to the first movement, but Impressionism rapidly yields to a more dissonant, modernist accent. To an even greater extent than the first quartet, the Martinu Quartet gets inside the music with a conviction borne of intimate knowledge; a near definitive performance. It also adds a true rarity: the first recording, I believe, of Martinu's first composition, the Three Horsemen from c1900, which offers abundant evidence of an unfettered imagination."

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