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Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, November 2019

The piano music is played here by Ratimir Martinovic with precision and ardent abandon; no half measures. Such a shame that it never came to the attention of John Ogdon, Ronald Stevenson or Hamish Milne for more often than not it seems tailor made for their pianism, leonine, visionary or gentle. Martinovic throws himself into the experience. While much of what we hear is the stuff of stormy cliffs and a contest of the more violent passions the early Menuetto is simple, pastoral and winsome; think Blezard or Mayerl. This piece is not far distant from the music on Kirsten Johnson’s two Guild Albanian collections (Rapsodi and Kenge). The Theme and Eight Variations and the Sonata Romantica take no prisoners. This is no innocent middling-temperature material but is pungently and plungingly Rachmaninovian. Incidents are on a big fervent scale. After a tolling Marcia Funèbre there’s a Finale where sparks and shrapnel fly to every corner, unflinching. Martinovioc’s instrument is fully equal to the task. In the Prelude, Dance and March dreamy shadows lengthen and the pulse slows as Mokranjac explores more exotic liquefacient twists. Some of the Seven Etudes are very, very short, with what would otherwise be a MacDowell forest pool having its surface disturbed by trilling breeze (same goes for the Uguale). There’s a motoric self-absorbed Staccato, a trilling Presto with a touch of Falla, a ruthless Presto Possibile and a concluding Presto Ritmico which evokes shadows and punched-out drama in a very muscular feat. Not for the last time would you be forgiven for thinking about Prokofiev. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2019

Born into an eminent Serbian musical family in 1923, Vasilije Mokranjac studied the piano but never appeared in public, devoting his life to composition and teaching. He was to write a very large and diverse portfolio of works, before, for reasons never explained, he committed suicide aged 61. Here, performed by a distinguished pianist from that part of the world, Ratimir Martinovic, we have the complete solo piano music contained on two very well filled discs and presented in chronological order. That takes us from his twenty-first year and to the conclusion of his life. Stylistically we begin in the era of Rachmaninov—or thereabouts—for the first two tracks, the music pleasing on the ear, but as the Theme and Variations progresses it becomes more technically challenging. By the time he wrote his most extended work for piano, the Sonata Romantica, in 1947, he had also introduced the virtuosity of Franz Liszt, and was equally moving to the textural qualities of Western Europe in the final two movements. Four years later, it was French Impressionism that coloured the Seven Etudes, the sixth throwing down a challenge to the soloist with the marking ‘Presto possible’. It is a direction Martinovic accepts, just as much as the following ‘Presto ritmico’ is a towering achievement as hands fly around the keyboard at fortissimo. There had been a gap of five years in Mokranjac’s output when the second disc opens with the brief and lightweight charm of Six Dances still totally committed to tonality. It was in the First Sonatina, from 1953, that we find him moving forward to atonality, and in the Second Sonatina we are in the age of Prokofiev with a score that could take its place among major piano works of the 20th century. Fragments are ‘bits and pieces’ from the same period, before we move to the 1970’s and Mokranjac’s apparent search for a new musical world in two Suites and Five Preludes. I probably read too much into it, but there is a sadness in the final Prelude. All World Premiere Recordings, the performances and interpretations come from a technically superb pianist who we must thank for his dedication. The sound quality has a suitably wide dynamic. © 2019 David’s Review Corner





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