Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

BOHUSLAV MARTINU 1890-1959 Piano Music (selection)  Eleonora Bekova (piano) CHANDOS CHAN 9655 [60.10]




Fantaisie et Toccata (1940)
Eight Preludes (1929)
Piano Sonata (1954)
Dumka No. 3(1941)
The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon (1948)
Bagatelle (1949)

The three Bekova sisters have already given us, courtesy of Chandos, a complete cycle of the three Martinu trios. Now Eleonora Bekova has recorded a selection (it could have been longer) of the piano music - largely from Martinu's later years. It is not labelled volume 1. No doubt Chandos will be watching the sales - which deserve to be good - even allowing for the one hour playing time.

The Fantaisie et Toccata was written during the Martinus' flight from Paris with Rudolf Firkusny. That sense of the hunt and loss pervades the music even during those irresistible passages where Martinu's hallmark of air-lofted energy takes wing. The driven and steely-eyed glint of the toccata is most impressive.

The preludes come from another and less turbulent world: the Paris of the early 1930s. The first of the eight is a capsule of time-slowed clocks. The second is a nervy stalk through the jungle. The third inhabits the dream-world of the opera Julietta. The fourth hops and skips like a gerbil on cinders. The fifth is a meandering capriccio with some nervy Lambertisms. The sixth is a cloudy largo and the seventh a presto étude seeming to have been written for a player piano. The final prelude is a dizzying roustabout dance.

Piano Sonata has considerable meditative power which at 0.58 (in I) almost launches into Medtner. The music is often ripplingly changeful with a vivid sense of fantasy. The second movement's initially quiet music is followed by a mix of buzzing activity and Beethovenian moonlight. The finale is stern and harsher-toned; plagued with dissonant alarm bells rung from Martinu's childhood church clock-tower. The work ends rather conventionally.

Finally three characterful bonne-bouches. Dumka 3 breathes innocence and simplicity rather like an uncomplicated piece by Fauré. The Fifth Day's has an agreeable hint of Chinoiserie paralleling the work of Constant Lambert in his Li Po settings. The Bagatelle reels with Bachian chimes.

Ms Bekova seems completely engaged by this music and is alive to the Martinu's imagination and articulates his dream. All we need to do is to listen and that is no hardship at all. warmly commended.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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