MARTINŮ (1890–1959) Complete Piano Music - Volume 5
Six Polkas, H. 101 (1916) [33:46]
Five Waltzes, H. 5 [16:58] (1910)
rec. 1 July 2008, Conservatorio di Lugano, Switzerland.
DDD NAXOS 8.572175 [50:44]
I reviewed Volume 4 of this complete survey of Martinů’s
piano music (see below), I was under the impression that
it was the final issue in the set. In the notes for that
claim that new, and lost, manuscripts have turned up, and
these discoveries have now made necessary the making of
three more disks. Necessary, certainly, essential, without
The Polkas are
very enjoyable. It must be said that there’s nothing startling
or earth shaking about these miniatures – they simply entertain – but
there are some unusual things to be encountered along the
way. Although the language is almost entirely that of Smetana
and Dvořák, number 4 brings in some startling silences
which disrupt the flow of the music, not to mention some
filigree work which the older composers would never have
thought of. Number 5 is quite the bravura study, although
it starts out as a simple dance and grows as the music
progresses until suddenly we’re into the kind of full-blown
study Chopin would have understood. After the first appearance
of this music we return to the dance and so on. It’s really
very exciting to hear this development of the material
and see how the composer’s mind was working in such a simple
form. The final Polka returns to the simpler mood of the
earlier dances but it’s still a big piece - over seven
minutes long - and well laid out for the full keyboard.
The Waltzes are
earliest piano pieces and are truly delightful, but they
are really salon pieces and there’s nothing which points
the way to the master composer he was to mature into. The
ghost of Dvořák is in evidence throughout the five
pieces, but this is no criticism for there is much to enjoy
in these simple sketches – they don’t aspire to much more
than that. The third tries to become a big concert waltz.
It’s interesting that even this early Martinů is
seeking to expand a simple dance into something larger.
At the end of the fourth there’s some interesting harmonic
changes. The final waltz is part slowed–down Liadov Musical
Snuff box and part Chaminade! An odd mix but entirely
Martinů fans will want this disk for it fills in some gaps in our knowledge
of the composer. Even if you’ve been scared off the composer,
though why that should be is beyond me, you’ll enjoy this
disk as an example of Bohemian music in the lighter style.
The lovely music is aided by a recording which is crisp
and very clear, putting the piano in a concert hall perspective.
The notes are very good too.
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