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Milhaud Viola Works Recording Reviews for Kenneth Martinson


From the Strad Magazine, August 2002, Pg. 885:


Most of Milhaud’s viola works were written shortly after each other in 1943-44 for his friend Germain Prévost, violist of the Pro Arte Quartet.  They make for a quite convenient, if rather short, coupling, but we do get a premiere here: the Elegy for viola, timpani and percussion which Milhaud wrote upon the death of his friend, the conductor Pierre Monteux (himself a violist), receives on this CD its first performance anywhere.  For once, the easy-going Milhaud drops the mask and allows a glimpse of the darker depths within.  The only other movement which reaches this level of intensity is the Dramatique of the Second Sonata; otherwise it’s Milhaud in his usual light vein.


Kenneth Martinson and friends make a good job of the music.  There is none of the ‘unseemly scrubbing’ of which Primrose complained in the First Sonata, rather a Glenn Gould-like staccato for the faux Bach of the fast movements and a flowing singing line in the slow ones.  The more ambitious Sonata no.2 brings forth more variety of colour from the viola, and the four ‘portraits’ are nicely characterised…the presentation [of the whole CD] is excellent, with informative notes from the violist himself explaining among other things the provenance of the girls portrayed in the Quatre Visages, who are featured in a charming painting on the CD’s cover.

By Carlos Maria Solare


From the American Viola Society Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2&3, 2002, Pg. 97:


I was first put in contact with Mr. Martinson (by David Dalton) when he was searching for a recording of Milhaud’s second viola concerto with Mr. Primrose recording it.  He told me then he was working on a CD of Milhaud’s compositions.  He sent me this CD to review and from the beginning I thoroughly enjoyed his sensitivity charm and warmth.  He is so at home with these works that I can find nothing to criticize- tone, technique, or musicianship.  At 50 minutes of music I wanted some more.  Come on Kenneth- how about the two Milhaud viola concerti?  Bravo, bravo.

By David O. Brown


From the Canadian Viola Society Newsletter, Bulletin 51, Spring 2003, Pg. 19:


This CD which presents much of the viola repertoire of Milhaud (omitting only the concertos for viola and orchestra, the orchestral version of the Air from Sonata No.2 and the Sonatine for viola and cello) is a welcome addition to the recorded repertoire.


The notes, written by Kenneth Martinson, are excellent and give a good view into the history of these works of which I was not particularly knowledgeable before.


The recorded sound (recorded in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory) is excellent.  The performances of the supporting artists are also excellent.  I enjoyed all these works but was intrigued by the Élégie which can only be viewed at the Library of Congress.  This work, written in memory of Pierre Monteux, is particularly effective in its use of percussion.


I did find it strange to end a CD of viola works with a Violin-Viola duet, but the lively rhythms in the last movement of this Sonatine do bring it to a fitting close.

By Ann Frederking


From The New York Violist Newsletter, Dec.2002/Jan.2003, Pg. 15:


The composer Darius Milhaud was very fond of the viola and wrote not only chamber works but also two viola concertos and other works for viola and orchestra.  As the intriguing program notes say, “Milhaud played the violin and viola since the age of 5; however he later gave up performing after hearing a recording of himself and Honegger playing poorly in the world premiere of the Honegger violin duet.”


Four of these works were written for the fine violist and friend of Milhaud, Germain Prévost, violist in the ProArte Quartet.  Kenneth Martinson is the excellent violist on this unusual CD of viola music.  CD’s of music by one composer can be somewhat risky, but with the skills of Mr. Martinson and the most interesting music of Milhaud, this is highly recommended.  Mr. Martinson had the technique to deal with all the demands of this music and a nice lyrical way of playing.  His sound is very good on the CD, especially in the lower register.  Milhaud’s second sonata is a more appealing work than the first and more challenging for the player.


The Élégie for viola, timpani, and 2 percussionists is a short but fascinating work and, according to the program notes, is a world premiere recording of this piece.


The Sonatine is a substantial piece and very well played by both Mr. Martinson and Nicholas Kitchen, violinist.


This is an important CD for violists for it presents viola music very well played and, hopefully, will inspire violists to seriously consider including Milhaud’s works on recitals.  Regretfully, Milhaud is not often programmed these days, but he really should be played.  The music has many wonderful Gallic charms and shows the viola to fine advantage.


The other excellent players are Christopher Taylor, piano, Nicholas Kitchen, violin, Frank Epstein, timpani, and Craig McNutt and Robert Schulz, percussion.

By Myron Rosenblum

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