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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Complete Piano Music 2
Puppets Book III H92 (1914) [9:35]
Puppets Book II H116 (1918) [12:58]
Puppets Book I H137 (1924) [11:09]
Film en miniature H148 (1925) [13:21]
Spring in the Garden H125 (1920) [7:12]
Butterflies and Birds of Paradise H127 (1920) [15:36]
The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon H318 (1948) [2:57]
Les bouquinistes du Quai Malaquais H319 (1948) [1:31]
rec. RSI Lugano, October 2005
NAXOS 8.557918 [74:19]
is the second of Giorgio Koukl’s recordings of the complete
Martinů solo piano music (see review
of volume 1).
I was fortunate inasmuch as Koukl sent me pre-production
of his performances – though
none from this volume - and I was therefore able to hear
that his playing was athletic, brisk and fully up to all
technical challenges. So it proves in this volume, one
that brings together all three sets of Loutky (Puppets).
were published in reverse order over the decade between
1914 and 1924. Thus set three is the earliest and is heard
first. Major competition of course comes in the shape of
Emil Leichner’s boxed set but as I’ve noted elsewhere Koukl
and Leichner approach Martinů in strongly contrasted
ways; the former tends to have sharper rhythms and is quicker,
the latter more romanticised. This is a crude summary but
it embeds an essential truth. That said Leichner prefers
more harpsichord-like staccati in the first of set III.
Elsewhere Koukl’s Columbine is far more active and
less clement than Leichner’s. The Puppet Ball is
voiced more richly and powerfully in Koukl’s hands.
don’t have a score to hand but Koukl doesn’t seem to take
the repeat in Harlequin in set II – if one is written.
Leichner certainly does. There’s a textual matter to be
resolved here. One notes how in set I Koukl’s New Puppet struts
with a more determined dynamism. Here Leichner embeds some
halting embarrassment into the playing – just right for
the newcomer, I think. The hesitant shyness of the next
number is deftly delineated by Leichner through subtle
articulation – perhaps Koukl is rather too bluff and matter-of-fact
for this Shy Puppet.
best music in this volume is Butterflies and Birds of
Paradise, that efflorescent outpouring of glittering
impressionism from 1920. There’s little difference in strictly
temporal terms between Koukl and Leichner. Koukl glints
more in the first of the three though he’s arguably less
rapturous but he plays throughout with real verve and command – and
an array of appropriate tone colours as well. Splendid
en miniature is not often
recorded. The rhythms are generic and very much of their
time – the vogue for the Tango in 1925 was as potent
as ever. This was a product of the composer’s Parisian
years and it’s no surprise that the most arresting of
the six brief movements is the Ukolébavka, a Czech
dance. Spring in the Gardens has a nocturnal lulling
sweetness – these are four brief Czech songs. And finally
we have two post-Second War slivers. The Fifth Day
of the Fifth Moon is Chinese pentatonic and dedicated
to the wife of Tcherepnin. Les bouquinistes du Quai
Malaquais by contrast is a jocular effusion reminiscent
of his long Parisian sojourn – and it doffs the cap to
native models, notably Poulenc.
performed, recorded and well annotated – no complaints
then of this admirable second Koukl volume.
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