> Bohuslav Martinu - Five Madrigal Stanzas [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Bohuslav MARTINU (1890-1959)
Five Madrigal Stanzas for violin and piano (1943) [11.09]
Four Madrigals for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1937) [18.42]
Three Madrigals for violin and viola (1948) [16.50]
Madrigal Sonata for flute, violin and piano (1942) [10.07]
Nonet (1959) [18.04]
Trio in F for flute, cello and piano (1944) [18.04]
Sonatina for two violins and piano (1930) [12.32]
La Revue de Cuisine for clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano (1927) [14.00]
The Dartington Ensemble
Krysia Osostowicz, Ernst Kovacic (violins), Susan Tomes (piano) (Sonatina only)
rec. 9-10 Dec 1982 (Nonet, Trio, Revue); 24-25 Sept 1983, 25 May 1984 (Madrigal-based works); 12 June 1991 (Sonatina) DDD
originally issued as CDA66084, CDA66473, CDA66133
HYPERION DYAD CDD22039 [119.04]

Five of the eight works in this handsomely turned-out set come from the period after Martinů's flight from Paris. La Revue, the Sonatina and the Four Madrigals were written during his Parisian years.

The Madrigal connection for the four works on the first CD can be traced back not to any encounter with Monteverdi or with of the other early Italian madrigalists but to a perhaps unlikely visit to Prague in January 1922. Fresh with the dew of discovery Charles Kennedy-Scott and The English Singers presented a programme of Weelkes, Byrd and Gibbons across Europe. From an inspired Martinů there were to be vocal madrigals (Eight Madrigals, 1939, Five Czech Madrigals, 1948, Part-Song Book, 1959) but these came later.

The Stanzas alternately lilt (shades of the Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra), dance with vitality and wild excitement (as in the contemporaneous Fourth Symphony) or lament in rapt prayer (compare the Double Concerto). The 'madrigal' particle of the title seems incidental to the structure, pleasure and conception of these pieces. The Madrigals for wind trio are in four lengthy movements which, while having the usual hallmarks, carry the impress of 1930s Gallic-based voices: Stravinsky, Milhaud and Florent Schmitt. The Three Madrigals for violin and viola were written for and dedicated to Lillian and Joseph Fuchs who premiered them in New York in 1948. Two classically busy (Bach and Vivaldi) and sometimes heartlessly severe outer movements enclose a passionate and buzzingly intense poco andante which reaches out to the listener. Oliver Butterworth (violin) and Patrick Ireland (viola) give a performance of unmistakable concentration and emotional weight. There is no hint of detachment here. The deep intakes of breath from the players may distract some listeners though, for my part, I found that it added to the humanity of the music-making. The ten minute Sonata is in two asymmetrical movements. The work is alive with the energetic hustle and rustle of Martinů’s 1940s symphonies and has a similar emotional range - perhaps the nearest ‘brother’ to this work is the Sixth Symphony where fantasy is accentuated over uproarious dramatics. Fantasy carries over into the Nonet, a work dating from seventeen years later, written only five months before his death. Here symphonic-fantasy meets a folksy style (e.g. Mikes from the Hills). This takes on hazy nostalgic overtones in the andante. The premiere was given at the Salzburg Festival on 27 July 1959 by the Czech Nonet. This is a work both tart and mellifluous. The Trio was adroitly described by Virgil Thomson as a 'gem of bright sound and cheerful sentiment'. This description does justice to the outer episodes but sells the plangent and luminous (words often seeming specially created for Martinů's slow movements) adagio short. The Sonatina was not recorded as part of the Dartington project but it fits well here with its bluesy suggestions, busy Bachian activity and ruthlessly playful heart-set. The Revue follows the amorous adventures of what we now term 'kitchenalia' (pace Vaughan Williams in his Aristophanic Suite). It is the earliest work here and its tight rhythmic figures and tartness declare it a creature of the popular 1920s culture - not just jazz. The dark Tango is memorable and the Charleston appears in the last two movements. Other encounters with popular culture are to be found in the works of Bliss, Holbrooke, Weill and Milhaud.

The notes are a conflation of the originals by Kenneth Dommett (who I seem to remember wrote for 'Records and Recordings', until the untimely death of Cis Amaral's excellent magazine in the early 1980s; wasn't there a Leonard Dommett as well who conducted on a Lyrita Williamson LP) and Robert Matthew-Walker. I have plundered these notes for the present review.

As if to hammer the message home Hyperion have issued these recordings in the Dyad series at bargain price - two for the price of one.

These works and performances are luminous and full of eager life.

Rob Barnett

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