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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Vánoce (1926) * [6:56]; Trois esquisses (1926) [6:13]; Quatre mouvements (1929) [7:58]; Avec un doigta * (1930) [0:34]; To BoěŠnek and Soničkaa * (1932) [2:38]; Lístek do památniku * (1935/6) [1:11]; Dumka No. 1 (1936) [2:38]; Dumka No. 2 (1936) * [2:25]; Julietta (Act 2, Scene 3) (1938) [3:16]; Fenêtre sur le jardin (1938) [8:18]; Mazurka (1941) * [2:16]; Dumka No. 3 (1941) [2:07]; Merry Christmas 1941 to Hope Castagnola (1941) * [4:02]; The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon (1948) [3:02]; Les bouquinistes du quai Malaquais (1948) [1:26]; Barcarolle (1949) * [1:40]; Improvisation (1951) [0:51]; Piano Sonata (1954) [18:38]; Adagio (1957) [3:01]
Erik Entwistle (piano) with aWilliam Freedberg (piano)
rec. The Sonic Temple, Roslindale, Mass. 15 March, 30 Apr, 21 May 2003. DDD
* CD premiere

Martinů enthusiasts are there well ahead of me and have already had the benefit of Colin Clarkeís perceptive and welcoming review.

This CD contains a significant number of recording premieres and according to Mr Entwistle there is yet more to come.

Vánoce from Paris in 1926 is in three little movements designed to capture the wonder of a childís Christmas. The final Christmas carol sounds very much like a troika or sleighride. The Three Sketches each portray a dance or popular genre. The first is a Blues but sounds more like a Rag for most of the time. The Tango is Ravel-like in the pattern of La Valse complete with the decay of bells. The Tango rises to a rocking climax predictive of Barberís own magnificent Tango in the suite Souvenirs. The Charleston seems to be a hairy encounter with Mussorgskyís unhatched chicks. The Four Movements are, by turns, Debussian, wrong-note gangly, a free fantasy on the St Wenceslas Chorale (the same one used by Josef Suk) and a synthesis of polka and waltz. Avec un doigt again returns to Joplin ragtime territory rather like the first of the three Sketches. The four movement suite To Bozanek and Sonicka is, like Fenêtre sur le jardin, strongly nostalgic this time of a holiday spent in Potstejn in 1932. The first movement is determinedly Czech nationalist while the other movements sing in Delian abandon. The little Listek do Pamatniku surprisingly reaches toward Macdowell territory.

The Dumkas 1 and 2 are mature Martinů with a pastoral directness and rejection of complexity. There is some Bachian figuration but more mature emotions are also evident. There are echoes and pre-echoes of the Toccata e Due Canzoni and of the Fourth Symphony here. This is music that avoids being merely pretty or emotionally small-scale. Julietta Act 2 Scene 2 was adapted by the composer direct from the opera score after Rudolf Firkusný had requested the piece. It is very touching and emotional. The suite Fenêtre sur le jardin is in four movements and is an intense example of music capturing and reviving a sense of place and time. The work pictures the garden of the composerís mother-in-law just outside Paris in 1938. It has a distinct and flowering charm that is both Gallic and impressionistic.

The 1941 Mazurka was written in memory of Paderewski who had just died. Martinů cannot help being poignantly entrapped by nostalgia for homeland recollected from the safety of the USA. From the same year comes the Third Dumka and this once again is suffused with the manner of the Fourth Symphony. Merry Christmas 1941 is sanguine and rhythmically alive. The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon is another touching and emotionally open piece - fascinating to hear such a sentiment-drenched work. This breathtakingly beautiful piece has real fragility requiring the caressingly imaginative insight which Eric Entwistle brings to it.

Les bouquinistes du quai Malaquais and the Improvisation are busy and Poulenc-like in their pecking sewing machine activity. Again these pick up on the thematic shapes of the Fourth Symphony and weaving them with Bachian filigree. The Barcarolle is a late work returning to impressionistic dreamy territory much the same as the surreal Julietta and the Fenêtres.

The Sonata No. 1 has been recorded before several times. It is Martinůís largest work for solo piano. It was written just after the Symphony No. 6 for Rudolf Serkin. In the first movement one can discern both Brahms Piano Concerto 2 at 1.31 and Rachmaninovís Second Concerto buried in the second movement. There is much here that is grave and a serious mood carries the day. There is also more dissonance in the Sonata than we are accustomed to from Martinů. The insect buzz of the opening of the Sixth Symphony can be heard in the finale as well as a return of the wraith of Brahms Second Piano Concerto. After playing the work to the composer at his home in Switzerland and with the benefit of the composerís advice Serkin gave the premiere in Dusseldorf. Eric Entwistle used Serkinís copy of the score and honoured the annotations in Martinůís handwriting.

The Adagio is Martinůís last work. It is dedicated to the memories of the composer Kapralova and her father. There is a halting sublime and dignified quality here. Amid the shards of mosaic and cut-glass we hear the Julietta theme resound one last time.

This is a lovely disc which would pair delightfully with Naxosís recent CD of the Martinů songs review.

Rob Barnett



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