This is a winner.
While Martinu wrote over 400 pieces and the 'dig' is always made that 'not
all his works are masterpieces' the fact is that he was a fine craftsman
and his music is composed with such ease. There are never any 'potholes and
bumps in the road' and, unlike César Franck's piano trios, Martinu's
are always interesting, diverting and have an infectious sparkle and glitter.
The Piano Trio No 2 was written in a fortnight in New York in February
1950. It is a truly delightful piece full of lyricism, natural beauty and
scintillating glitter. And how magnificently it is played. It is a glorious
piece unashamedly tender one moment and brilliant the next.
The Piano Trio No 3 was written in about three weeks in 1951 in New
York. It is far more mellow and thoughtful and contains some beautiful music.
If the first movement is full of interest, the second is full
of tears and the finale full of joy. This is,
again, a really satisfying work and I admired the performance greatly.
My love for music for cello and piano is well known. I know and have played
the three Martinu sonatas but I did not know his Nocturnes subtitled
Four Studies for cello and piano which last about twenty minutes.
The opening andantino moderato was rather ordinary but the introductory
and interesting chordal work of the lento led to a deeply felt
soliloquy. What splendid harmonies, and it is this unpredictability
that lifts music out of the 'cheap and familiar'. Here is no 'common music'.
It speaks directly to those who have a heart and yet it is neither mawkish
What is also fascinating is that these are not just pieces for cello and
piano since the music is challenging for the cellist and yet there are no
ugly effects. This being so one can but admire Alfia Bekova's playing. The
moderato begins rather limply but develops into a thoughtful piece
with many effective nuances and it is beautifully played. The final
allegretto moderato is all too brief but engaging all the same.
The disc concludes with the Czech Rhapsody of 1945, written in another
fortnight, and dedicated to Fritz Kreisler. The composer had heard of the
liberation of his homeland while on an extended holiday at Cape Cod. It is
marked lento but it is not dreary. Its 'companion piece' is the glorious
Symphony No 4 and if you do not have the Chandos recording under Bryden
Thomson you are missing both a gem of a piece and recording.
The Rhapsody is really a four piece suite and often hugely enjoyable
although Martinu's critics will 'dig' at the idea of a virtuoso piece being
'sunny and relaxed'.
The performances and recordings are first class.