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Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)

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Martinu, Eben, Sluka - Works for Cello & Piano

Martinu, Eben, Sluka - Works for Cello & Piano


Eben:

Suita balladica

Martinu:

Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 3, H. 340

Variations on a Slovak folksong for Cello & Piano, H. 378

Sluka:

Sonata for Cello and Piano


Tomáš Jamník (violoncello), Ivo Kahánek (piano)

Tomáš Jamník and Ivo Kahánek’s first album (Martinu – Janácek – Kabelác) was hailed by Harmonie magazine as the debut of the decade, while Classics Today gave it a rating of 10/10 and designated it as one of the best cello recitals of recent years.

For their second album, the young artists have chosen compositions that originated within a short period of time, between 1952 and 1959. Martinu’s Sonata and Variations resound with yearning for the homeland he is never to return to, the composer employing a simple and cordial language. Suita balladica by the twenty-six-year-old Petr Eben is characterised by a similar inosculation of joyful, dance music with an almost ghostlike grief connected with the author’s personal wartime experiences. Sluka’s most frequently performed piece, the musically simple and lucid Sonata for violoncello and piano, serves to soothe the heightened emotions evoked by the previous compositions and ends the CD on a note of reconciliation.

The two musicians play with an ebullience and engagement commensurate to their tender years, yet at the same time manifest a remarkable maturity and understanding of the weighty themes of the compositions. An intimate, communicative album.

Martinu, Eben, Sluka for cello and piano – pain and joy in music.

“…Kahánek… and Jamník deliver a beautifully judged account of this entire sunlit sonata [Martinu's 3rd sonata]…” Gramophone Magazine, December 2008

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Martinu, Foerster & Novak - Cello Concertos

Martinu, Foerster & Novak - Cello Concertos


Foerster, J:

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 143

World Première Recording

Martinu:

Cello Concerto No. 1, H.196

Novák, J:

Capriccio for Cello and Small Orchestra


Jirí Bárta, who for a number of years has been considered one of the finest cellists both at home and abroad, has certainly not chosen the three concertos on this CD at random. Bohuslav Martinu’s first concerto, in the definitive 1955 version, is among the works Bárta most cherishes and performs most frequently. At the same time, this opus bridges the imaginary space between the other compositions. Its first version originated in 1930, at the time when J. B. Foerster was completing his one and only cello concerto. This work of a composer with a Czech soul and European experience has its world premiere on this recording.

From an entirely different world is Jan Novák’s syncopated Capriccio, a piece with distinct jazz elements in which the solo instrument is accompanied by a big band. Novák, sharing with his teacher Martinu the fate of an émigré who would never again see his homeland, completed Capriccio a short time after Martinu, in the twilight of his life, gave his first concerto its definitive form. Capriccio too is released here for the first time on CD and features Jirí Bárta accompanied by the best Czech chamber orchestra under its chief conductor, the rising star Jakub Hruša.

“…Jirí Bárta… plays with a warm, unselfconscious expressiveness that connects with all three works, and the Prague Philharmonia is with him every step of the way.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2009

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - Awards Issue 2009

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Martinu: Ariane & Double Concerto

Martinu: Ariane & Double Concerto


Martinu:

Ariane

Libretto by Bohuslav Martinů after Georges Neveux’s play “Le Voyage de Thésée”

Simona Saturová (Ariane), Zoltán Nagy (Theseus), Baurzhan Anderzhanov (Minotaurus), Abdellah Lasri (Bouroun/Wachmann), Tijl Faveyts (Alter Mann)

Aalto-Theater Essen Choir soloists

Double Concerto for Strings, Piano & Timpani

Ivo Kahánek (piano)


Essener Philharmoniker, Tomáš Netopil

A great story within a single Act – the dreamy Ariane of Simona Šaturová and Tomáš Netopil.

“I am writing a new small opera, a one‐acter, as I would also like to have a rest from the grand‐scale opera, The Greek Passion, which has taken its toll.” Martinů composed Ariane within a mere month, in the summer of 1958. The Greek myth of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, King of Crete, who helps Theseus slay the Minotaur, has been set to music by a number of renowned composers. Martinů was captivated by Georges Neveux’s drama Le Voyage de Thésée, on which he based his own libretto. Theseus is portrayed as a split personality, struggling with himself and overwhelmed by love for a woman.

Tomáš Netopil and his Essener Philharmoniker have made a new recording of the opera some 30 years after the one created by Václav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic. An extraordinary account of the title role is given by Simona Šaturová, whose final lament as the abandoned Ariane is simply breathtaking. Besides the opera, the CD also features the Double Concerto, a work representing the apex of the composer’s French period and written amidst dramatic circumstances. Martinů began sketching it in the summer of 1938, at a time when a tense atmosphere dominated Europe, and this omnipresent fear and discomposure are also reflected in the piece: “... I have the impression that the tragic events, which we still remember … and this fraught atmosphere is engraved on these very pages.” Martinů duly imbued it with his strong emotions relating to the fate of his homeland: “It is a piece lived through under difficult circumstances, yet it possesses neither despair nor gloom, but implies revolt, courage and an unshakable faith in the future, expressed by means of abrupt dramatic surges, a current of notes that does not stop for a second…”

“This “light-hearted comedy” on the well worn subject of the Minotaur myth owes more, perhaps, to French baroque than to “grand” opera...The cast is entirely non-French...but Simona Saturova sings the title role with bright, penetrating, occasionally strident tone and has excellent support from Zoltan Nagy (Théseus), Baurzhan Anderzhanov (Minotaur) and Abdellah Lasri (Bouron, Guard)....Netopil conducts with complete conviction.” Sunday Times, 14th August 2016

“this recording, made live in 2014 in Essen, is the first in around 30 years – and it’s very much worthwhile, thanks to a strong, idiomatic cast, conductor Tomáš Netopil’s sympathy with the score, and the Essen orchestra’s flowing, characterful performance.” The Guardian ****

“Netopil and the Essen Philharmonic find a lot for the listener to dive into: cool, glassy edges (prominent piano and glockenspiel), pulsing strings and ritualistic rhythms that hint at Ancient Greece. Best of all are three chewy orchestral interludes that give the piece a baroque flavour, in mood if not harmony.” The Times, 19th August 2016 ****

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

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Martinu: Cantatas

Martinu: Cantatas


Martinu:

Legend of the Smoke from Potato Fires

Mikes of the Mountains

The Opening of the Wells

Dandelion Romance


Pavla Vykopalova (soprano), Ludmila Hudeckova (contralto), Martin Slavik (tenor), Jiri Bruckler (baritone), Petr Svoboda (baritone), Jaromir Meduna (recitation) & Ivo Kahanek (piano)

Members of the Bennewitz Quartet & Prague Philharmonic Choir, Lukas Vasilek

When Miloslav Bureš sent his first poem Song of the Ruby Spring to Bohuslav Martinů in 1955, he seemed to have touched the deepest spot of the composer’s heart. The poet set his verses into the landscape of the Czech Highlands, the region of Martinů’s childhood and a rich source of his memories. The composer must have identified strongly with the character of the pilgrim returning to his birthplace, because he wrote The Opening of the Springs within nine days. Later he set to music three more poems by Bureš, finishing the last one, Mikeš of the Mountains, half a year before his death. For Martinů, the cantatas represented an important link to his homeland at a time when the political situation and later also his poor health were diminishing his hopes of coming back home. One can only imagine what he felt when he was sitting in Schönenberg, Switzerland, listening to the vinyl record with the first recording of his Opening of the Springs published by Supraphon, or when his friends were sending him reports about the Czech premieres of his works...

Recorded in the Rudolfinum, Prague, October and December 2015

“The Prague choir gets the balance right: vivid character and resonant voices but never saccharine and rhythmically taut. This is the ensemble that premiered three of the cantatas (in a previous guise) and it’s hard to imagine singing of more authority in Martinů’s music.” The Guardian, 15th December 2016 ****

“Baritone Jirí Brückler is superb here, and the top-quality professional Prague Philharmonic Choir master the most harmonically rich cantata of the four, a tale of a girl who doesn’t recognise her long-lost love returning from the wars…valuable messages for our or indeed any time, and superlatively performed. Unmissable” BBC Music Magazine, March 2017 *****

“This is a singularly exotic issue for Czechs and non-Czechs alike...I cannot imagine these cantatas being better performed or recorded than here; Lukáš Vasilek is an outstanding conductor, and the Prague Philharmonic Choir respond to his every interpretative intuition. Very highly recommended.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - March 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - March 2017

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Martinu: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Martinu: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2


Martinu:

Cello Concerto No. 1, H.196

Cello Concerto No. 2


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Martinu - Chamber Music for Viola

Martinu - Chamber Music for Viola


Martinu:

Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola (Duo No. 1), H. 313

Duo for Violin and Viola No. 2, H. 331

Sonata for Viola & Piano, H. 355

Musique de Chambre No. 1


Alexander Besa (viola), Bohuslav Matoušek (violin), Petra Besa (piano), Ludmila Peterková (clarinet), Jan Talich (violin), Jirí Bárta (violoncello), Jana Boušková (harp) & Karel Košárek (piano)

While Bohuslav Martinu dedicated himself to the violin and its brilliant tone from the very beginning of his oeuvre, the viola doesn’t appear until his later years, (all of the pieces on this album dating from the period 1947–59). It is as if he found in the viola, with its dark timbres, its ability to be harsh and rhythmic as well as sweet and lyrical, an instrument to express his feelings and sufferings in the last part of his life.

A Mozartian joy and temperament flash through the lyrical moods, nostalgia and “Czech” fervor of the folk-music motives, like reminders of his unbridled youth through memories of the homeland to which he was no longer able to return. The transparent structure of the Three Madrigals and Duet No. 2 gives way to the ardent song of the Sonata for Viola, while in the Chamber Music the viola is just a gossamer strand in the broad color palette of the combinations of all the instruments in the sextet.

Violist Alexander Besa is an excellent soloist, chamber player and orchestral musician (Camerata Bern et al.) with a number of recordings and awards to his name. The album features, without exaggeration, the best Czech musicians of the younger generation.

The lyrical viola, dark and brilliant, joyful and mournful in the later works of Bohuslav Martinu.

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Martinu: Epic of Gilgamesh

Martinu: Epic of Gilgamesh

cantata for soloists, chorus and orchestra


Marcela Machotková, Jirí Zahradnícek, Václav Zítek & Karel Pruša

Prague Philharmonic Choir & Prague Symphony Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek

Martinu’s oratorio The Epic of Gilgamesh (1955) is unusual and, in a way, unique in all the international literature, as exciting and mysterious as the ancient tale on which it is based. The epic, one of the oldest extant examples of written culture, dates back to the beginning of Babylon, and Martinu devoted a number of years to the study of its philosophical basis before beginning to set to music Thompson’s translation of its Neoassyrian version.

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Martinu: Epic of Gilgamesh

Martinu: Epic of Gilgamesh

The world premiere recording of the original english version.


Lucy Crowe (soprano)

Czech Philharmonic Prague, Philharmonic Choir Vasilek, Manfred Honeck

The music Martinů created during the last decade of his life demonstrates his penchant for religious and spiritual texts. The idea of setting the epic written 4,500 years ago matured in the composer for 15 years. Although differing boldly from the avant-garde of the 1950s, it is an utterly modern piece, reflecting Martinů’s intense interest in Baroque music and the Notre Dame school. The oratorio, premiered on 23 January 1958 in Basel, was a tremendous success. Its performance in Prague in January 2017 by the Czech Philharmonic and a superb international team of soloists, conducted by Manfred Honeck, brought back to life the work’s English version, based on Reginald Campbell Thompson’s translation.

“I have realised that, notwithstanding the immense progress we have attained … the questions I have come across in the literature of a nation we refer to as primitive still accompany us. They are the questions of friendship, love and death. In the epic of Gilgamesh, we encounter a very acute and almost anxiously distressful yearning to find the answers, which we have been seeking in vain to the present day.”

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Martinu: Field Mass

Martinu: Field Mass


Martinu:

Field Mass

Vaclav Zitek (baritone)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic Choir

Double Concerto for Strings, Piano & Timpani

Josef Ruzicka (piano), Jan Bouse (timpani)

Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra

Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca, H. 352

Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra


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Martinu - Jeux & other Piano Works

Martinu - Jeux & other Piano Works


Martinu:

Jeux I & II (H 205, 206)

Four Movements (H 170)

Film en miniature, H.148

Spring (H 127)

The Haunted Train, H. 258

The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon

La Revue de Cuisine

Adagio ‘In memoriam’


Karel Kosarek (piano)

Martinu’s piano oeuvre comprises more than 200 compositions (some of which were dedicated to the outstanding pianists R. Firkušný and R. Serkin) and has duly been paid great attention to.

• However, a number of fascinating miniatures have remained overlooked by performers, with some of them being presented for the very first time on this CD. The minor pieces, often arranged into tiny cycles, are most notable for their playful atmosphere and rhythmic inventiveness.

• The first cycle (Jeux I) from the composer’s mature Paris period reflects the huge popularity of jazz at the time, while in another cycle (Film en miniature) the author’s erstwhile enchantment with Impressionism is still evident.

• Martinu’s piano version of the jazz ballet The Kitchen Revue, which immediately after its premiere (1927) met with unprecedented acclaim, has been completely overlooked and hitherto unreleased. This composition too can be heard on our CD in premiere.

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