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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Britten’s Violin Concerto grows in stature with each hearing, and Lorraine McAslan and the ECO under Steuart Bedford give a particularly intense and sensitive account. It is a most moving account, in some ways even more searching than Mark Lubotsky’s with the composer himself conducting, on Decca.

Mont Juic, a suite of Catalan dances, is a joint composition, the first two movements being by Lennox Berkeley, the last two by Britten. It is witty, colourful and melodious, and the Lament is poignant. Bedford gets impressive results from the ECO, and in the concerto the balance between soloist and orchestra is most realistically and musically judged. A distinguished issue in every way, and a bargain at the price.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2007

In reviewing the first disc in the complete piano works of Bohuslav Martinu from Naxos, I commented that he did not take kindly to formal musical education, and though he tried periods with Suk and later in Paris with Roussel, we was largely a self-taught composer. That did not stop him writing a vast amount of music, and among more than four hundred works he wrote around eighty for keyboard. Though Martinu fingerprints pass through much that he wrote, he appears a musically confusing figure. That is true of the present disc which offers works spread over thirty six years, the earliest being the three sets of Puppets started in 1912 which have a wonderful sense of childlike simplicity. They are new to me, though their immediate attraction, with more than a hint of Debussy, strikes me as some of the most attractive piano music from that period. Toying with jazz and the seductive tango Film en miniature continues in this pleasing mode, their brief nature carrying through to the pictures of four children games in Spring in the Garden. So far all have come from the young Martinu, but for the final two pieces we move to 1948 and the latter part of his career. They are very powerful and offer the soloist a chance to display technique. The early music does call for nimble fingers, but above all it looks for a pianist who is attracted to creating pleasure through simplicity. Born in Prague, Girogio Koukl moved to continue his education in Switzerland in 1968. He was to make his home there and is presently leading a busy concert life as pianist and harpsichordist. Coming to Martinu's music early in his life, there is that feel of affection evident throughout. The sound quality is admirable, and I cannot remember enjoying a piano disc quite so much for a very long time. Try tracks 2 and 3 and been totally won over.

American Record Guide, February 2007

These performances were originally published in different pairings by Collins in 1990. All three works are from early in Britten's career. McAslan is heard in a sizzling performance, brilliantly assertive, formidable in her technique, with Bedford whipping up the orchestra to a frenzy of musical excitement. The other two pieces are rarities on records. Canadian Carnival is a jolly affair based on French-Canadian folk-tunes. (The work's alternate title is Kermesse Canadienne.) Mont juic is a suite of Catalan dances inspired by the 1929 visit of Britten and Lennox Berkeley to the International Exhibition held in Mont Juic (near Barcelona), Spain. There was an exhibition of folk-dancing that captivated the two composers. At first they would not divulge which composer wrote what in the four-movement suite. Berkeley later did reveal that he had written "most" of the first two movements and Britten had written "most" of the others. They decided the form and orchestration before beginning III, 'Lament', is a beautiful, graceful slow dance. Bedford, of course, makes the most of the overture and the suite.

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