Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Julietta Suite H253A (1937) Theatre Behind the Gate Suite H251A (1935-36) Comedy on the Bridge Little Suite H247A (1937) Le Départ - symphonic interlude from The Three Wishes H175A Saltarello from Mirandolina H346A (1953)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Václav Neumann Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra/František Jílek rec. Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, 1983, live (Julietta); Brno Stadion Studio, 1973. ADD
SUPRAPHON SU 3742-2 011 [59.07]


Rather like Dvořák and Tchaikovsky before him Martinů pursued operatic success like the quest for Grail. Success on the scale of Rusalka and Onegin eluded him almost completely with only The Greek Passion making a strong bid.

The present collection of suites provides as sampling from his many operas. Concert hall suites drawn from operatic material feed the commissioning appetite, act as a persuasive ‘calling card’ for the opera and appease the composer's need to unlock music that would otherwise stay firmly imprisoned in the full stage score.

The Julietta suite created by Zbynĕk Vostĕk, is vivid with the delightful woodwind sounding out for more than in the 1965 Krombholc recording of the complete opera. The three movements of the suite include a bassoon-crowing echo from Le Sacre and a Debussy-like wash of sound in the second movement with the stormy onomatopoeia of Sibelius's Tempest prelude in the finale. This work looks forward to Martinů's final impressionistic phase of the 1950s: Estampes and Parables. Tender and voluptuous playing from the Czech Phil. I do not recall these tracks being issued previously.

The 22 minute five movement suite from the opera Theatre Behind the Gate dates from the two years before the completion of Julietta. The work is affected by Parisian jollity and, it must be said, superficiality. The music is flighty and heart-warming as befits the ‘commedia dell'arte’ plot and the Debureau dumb-show spectacles. The reference points include Petrushka, Pulcinella, Foulds' Le Cabaret (also Debureau-inspired), Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and even Warlock's Capriol. Pleasing music nicely rendered by the Supraphon engineers who give accustomed emphasis to the woodwind.

The Little Suite from Comedy on the Bridge is from 1937. The music gibes and jabs with affectionate toyshop vitriol at the armies face off across the bridge occupied by the opera's five core characters. Sounds like an ideal Peter Ustinov vehicle.

After the stern catastrophic atmosphere of Le Départ from the opera The Three Wishes comes the post-war Saltarello from the opera Mirandolina, a work headily and unmistakably radiant with the play of light and the intersection of rhythm of the Fourth Symphony.

This is the first of a pair of discs in which the flagship Czech classical recording company re-couples and reissues material from their recent back catalogue. Supraphon have more. I hope they will release everything for Martinů’s popularity is on the increase.

A good cross-section then although for my taste there is an excess of Parisian brilliance. The Saltarello and Julietta suite as well as the grim Le Départ more than compensate.

Rob Barnett



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