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Monday, August 29, 2016

Bohuslav Martinů - Špalíček (František Jílek)


Information

Composer: Bohuslav Martinů

CD1:
  • (01) Spalícek, ballet, H. 214: Opening
  • (02-21) Spalícek, ballet, H. 214: Act I
  • (22-41) Spalícek, ballet, H. 214: Act II
  • (42-45) Spalícek, ballet, H. 214: Act III
CD2:
  • (01-09) Spalícek, ballet, H. 214: Act III (continued)
  • (10) The Spectre's Bride, ballad based on Karel Jaromír Erben's poem, H. 214 I
  • (11) The Romance of the Dandelions, cantata, H. 364
  • (12-16) The Primrose, five duets on texts of Moravia folk songs, H. 348

* Anna Kratochvílová, soprano; Miroslav Kopp, tenor; Richard Novák, bass; Kantiléna Children's Chorus; Jan Sedláček, chorus master; Kühn Female Chorus; Pavel Kühn, chorus master; Brno Philharmonic Orchestra; František Jílek, conductor (H. 214)
* Jiřina Marková, soprano; Miroslav Kopp, tenor; Pavel Horáček, bass; Kühn Mixed Chorus; Pavel Kühn, chorus master; Prague Symphony Orchestra; Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor (H. 214 I)
* Milada Čejková; Kühn Mixed Chorus; Pavel Kühn, chorus master (H. 364)
* Petr Messiereur; Stanislav Bogunia; Kühn Female Chorus; Pavel Kühn, chorus master (H. 348)

Date: 1988 (H. 214, H. 364 & H. 348), 1985 (H. 214 I)
Label: Supraphon
http://www.supraphon.com/album/2523-martinu-spalicek-the-spectre-s-bride-romance-of-the-dandelio


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 9

This is a recoupling made even more desirable than on its original issue by the inclusion of The Specter’s Bride, Martinu’s retelling of the same story set by Dvorák about a young girl who runs away with her dead lover’s ghost, only to be rescued at the last minute from the cemetery by the arrival of dawn. It’s a wonderful piece, as fine in its own way as Dvorák’s setting, and, at half an hour, much shorter. Including it in this two-disc set makes a perfect program organized around settings of Czech folk poetry, the Dandelion Romance and The Primrose being two much shorter but very charming further examples.

The main attraction, however, is Špalícek, a ballet with songs in which each of the three acts incorporates the telling of a fairy tale, enhanced by plenty of additional dancing and commentary framing the main stories. The music is invariably appealing and rhythmically vivacious, Martinu in his most bubbly folk/neo-classical mode–and if you enjoy the suite (recorded by Mackerras on Conifer) then you will surely find the complete work equally enchanting.

All of the performances here are excellent in every respect. None of the soloists, save bass Richard Novák, are at all well known, but it doesn’t matter a bit, while the conductors are veterans who can be counted on to deliver consistently idiomatic and persuasive results. Given the wide variety of forces–from full orchestra with chorus and soloists in The Specter’s Bride and Špalícek to solo violin, piano, and a small group of sopranos and altos in The Primrose–the engineering is quite good. A major Martinu release, for sure. [4/11/2008]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/martinu-spalicek-etc
http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/s/spr10752a.php
https://www.amazon.com/Martinu-Spalicek-Spectres-Dandelions-Primrose/dp/B000VX1QFO

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Bohuslav Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. In the early 1930s he found his main font for compositional style, the neo-classical as developed by Stravinsky. With this, he expanded to become a prolific composer, who wrote almost 400 pieces, included 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. He is compared with Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Central European ethnomusicology into his music.

***

František Jílek (May 22, 1913 – September 16, 1993) was a Czech conductor, known especially for his interpretation of Leoš Janáček's works. In 1952, he became the principal conductor of Janáček´s opera in Brno, a position he held for 25 years. In 1978, he became the conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra. The recordings of his interpretations of Janáček's, Novák's and Martinů's work are available on the Czech label Supraphon.

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Bohuslav Martinů - Le Raid merveilleux; La Revue de Cuisine; On Tourne (Christopher Hogwood)


Information

Composer: Bohuslav Martinů
  • (01-05) Le Raid merveilleux (The Amazing Flight), mechanical ballet, H. 159
  • (06-15) La Revue de Cuisine (The Kitchen Revue), jazz-ballet, H. 161
  • (16-23) On Tourne, ballet, H. 163

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Christopher Hogwood, conductor
Dates: 2003 (H. 159 & H. 163), 2004 (H. 161)
Label: Supraphon
http://www.supraphon.com/album/1414-martinu-le-raid-merveilleux-la-revue-de-cuisine-on-tourne


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Christopher Hogwood really does have an affinity for Martinu's busy, neo-Baroque music, letting it bustle and sing with unaffected charm and plenty of energy. The novelty here for many collectors will be the first complete recording of Le Revue de cuisine, the full score of which was only discovered in the 1990s. In addition to the familiar suite, there are a couple of interludes and a funeral march that taken together extend the length of the work by several minutes. Of course none of that would matter if this performance weren't terrific, but it has all of the gusto and humor that Martinu wrote into the music, with an especially delicious romp through the Charleston. The members of the Czech Philharmonic, particularly clarinetist Tomás Kopácek, sound fabulous, and pianist Daniel Wiesner is pretty hot stuff too.

Le Raid merveilleux, subtitled "ballet mécanique", describes the failed attempt of two French aviators to fly across the Atlantic just weeks before Lindberg succeeded from the opposite direction. The music alternates evocative machine sounds with some surprisingly sweet, lyrical passages (the final representation of the sea, for example). On tourne! (Roll the Cameras!) is a puppet ballet lasting nearly half an hour involving a diver and various sea creatures in various cartoonish adventures. The music has unflagging energy and charm, coming straight from Martinu's bubbliest theatrical vein. Bits of it have been recorded before, but I believe this is the premiere of the complete work, and it should earn the friendship of the composer's fans everywhere. It's a delight, as are these performances, very vividly recorded, even if the sound is a touch reverberant at loud moments. An important and (best of all) extremely enjoyable addition to the Martinu discography. [7/9/2004]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:

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Bohuslav Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. In the early 1930s he found his main font for compositional style, the neo-classical as developed by Stravinsky. With this, he expanded to become a prolific composer, who wrote almost 400 pieces, included 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. He is compared with Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Central European ethnomusicology into his music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohuslav_Martin%C5%AF

***

Christopher Hogwood (10 September 1941 – 24 September 2014) was an English conductor, harpsichordist, writer, and musicologist. Founder of the early music ensemble the Academy of Ancient Music (1973), he was an authority on historically informed performance and a leading figure in the early music revival of the late 20th century. Although best known for the baroque and early classical repertoire, he also performed contemporary music, with a particular affinity for the neo-baroque and neoclassical schools including many works by Stravinsky, Martinů and Hindemith.

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Bohuslav Martinů - Sinfonietta La Jolla; Toccata e Due Cazoni; Concerto Grosso (Ondřej Kukal)


Information

Composer: Bohuslav Martinů
  1. Sinfonietta La Jolla, H. 328: I. Poco allergo
  2. Sinfonietta La Jolla, H. 328: II. Largo - Andante moderato
  3. Sinfonietta La Jolla, H. 328: III. Allergo
  4. Toccata e Due Canzoni, H. 311: I. Toccata. Allegro moderato
  5. Toccata e Due Canzoni, H. 311: II. Canzone No. 1. Andante moderato
  6. Toccata e Due Canzoni, H. 311: III. Canzone No. 2. Allegro (poco) - Adagio
  7. Concerto Grosso, H. 263: I. Allegro ma non troppo
  8. Concerto Grosso, H. 263: II. Adagio
  9. Concerto Grosso, H. 263: III. Allegretto

Josef Hála, piano
Petr Jiříkovský, piano (7-9)
Prague Chamber Orchestra
Ondřej Kukal, violin & conductor
Date: 1997
Label: Supraphon
http://www.supraphon.com/album/1382-martinu-sinfonietta-la-jolla-toccata-e-due-canzoni-concerto


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

This splendid disc was originally released on the Panton label, but happily reappears here on Supraphon. The fact that the conductorless Prague Chamber Orchestra can play this rhythmically tricky music with such confidence bespeaks long familiarity with Martinu's personal idiom. These are, one and all, fabulous pieces, particularly the Toccata e due canzone, a masterwork if ever there was one, and a much darker and more emotionally draining essay than the neo-baroque title might suggest.

Here's the bottom line: these are simply the finest versions of all three works. Tempos are lively, balances true, those long, syncopated, lyrical cantilenas in the first movements of the Tocatta and Sinfonietta soar as if self-propelled. No detail of Martinu's ceaselessly inventive orchestration passes unobserved, and his busy rhythms and obsessive ostinatos never turn mechanical (a potential issue in the Concerto Grosso especially). As usual, the Czech woodwinds (oboes especially) are a joy, and pianist Josef Hála plays delightfully in all three pieces. Excellent sonics offer an ideal combination of warmth and clarity. It doesn't get any better than this.

-- David HurwitzClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/Jan09/Martinu_Jolla_su39582.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/martinu-sinfonietta-la-jolla-toccata-e-due-canzoni-concerto-grosso-mw0001835345
http://www.amazon.com/Jolla-Toccata-Concerto-B-Martinu/dp/B001JCZXW8

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Bohuslav Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. In the early 1930s he found his main font for compositional style, the neo-classical as developed by Stravinsky. With this, he expanded to become a prolific composer, who wrote almost 400 pieces, included 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. He is compared with Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Central European ethnomusicology into his music.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohuslav_Martin%C5%AF

***

Ondřej Kukal (born 14 August 1964 in Prague)is a contemporary Czech conductor, violinist and composer. From 1979–1985 he studied the violin at the Prague Conservatory. In 1996 he accepted the position of concertmaster of the Prague Chamber Orchestra. Since 2002 Ondřej Kukal has been a chief conductor of the Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been a regular guest of leading Czech orchestras.
https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ond%C5%99ej_Kukal
http://www.fhk.cz/en/42/Conductor/

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bohuslav Martinů - The Epic of Gilgamesh (Jiří Bělohlávek)


Information

Composer: Bohuslav Martinů
  1. The Epic of Gilgamesh, oratorio, H. 351: Gilgamesh (Tablets 1, 2)
  2. The Epic of Gilgamesh, oratorio, H. 351: The Death of Enkidu (Tablets 7, 8, 10)
  3. The Epic of Gilgamesh, oratorio, H. 351: Invocation (Tablet 12)

Marcela Machotková, soprano
Jiří Zahradníček, tenor
Václav Zítek, baritone
Karel Průša, bass
Otakar Brousek,speaker
Prague Philharmonic Choir; Josef Veselka, chorus master
Prague Symphony Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor

Date: 1976
Label: Supraphon
http://www.supraphon.com/album/1503-martinu-the-epic-of-gilgamesh


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Review

Martinu’s major vocal compositions, operas and oratorios, had a way of confounding expectations. The Epic of Gilgamesh , completed in 1955, was in many ways the exact opposite of a work composed around the same time, Mirandolina . While the latter was a typical Goldoni comedy of situation, the former was a work that considered timeless verities of the human condition: the nature of friendship and death. Recitative sufficed for Mirandolina , but Gilgamesh , with its mix of modally based orchestral themes, long-spanned rhythmic ostinatos, and phrases chanted by a bass soloist on a single note, sounds at times like a Martinu transmutation of Eastern Orthodox sacred services. It is a powerful work, deftly drawing upon three sections from the neo-Assyrian redaction of this sprawling and fragmentary religious cycle. From the expansive vision of creation, youth, and energy in the first section, “Gilgamesh,” it turns with restraint to the pathos of “The Death of Enkidu,” then to the alternately forceful and chill ritualistic summons and questioning of Enkidu’s spirit in “Invocation.” 

I know of two currently available versions of The Epic of Gilgamesh . Both have been in circulation before. The one that features Zdenek Kosler leading the forces of the Slovak Philharmonic, now on Naxos 8.555138, originally appeared on Marco Polo back in the early 1990s. The one under review is a reissue from 1976. Of the two, Kosler is faster and, I find, a bit less atmospheric than Belohlávek. There is sometimes a sense of impatience in Kosler’s reading, especially in the “Invocation” movement, as though he found some of the pages less successful than others. I would agree with this, but only if those pages are rushed. Taken in context as Belohlávek does, the entire oratorio has an overwhelming effect. He is helped by the Prague SO, which is a fresher sounding, better-blended orchestra than the Slovak Philharmonic. 

Among the singers, Jirí Zahradnícek’s dry, hard-sounding timbre makes him a less attractive Enkidu than Stefan Margita (Kosler). I have a slight preference for Marcela Machotková over Eva Depoltová (Kosler), given the narrow vibrato and refined dynamics of the former. Depoltová sings well, but with less attention to the words. Milan Karpisek (Kosler) offers a more riveting speaker than Otakar Brousek. Elsewhere, the performers are roughly even. Naxos balances its recording well, chorus supporting the orchestra, soloists a bit in front of both. Supraphon’s analog sound is also quite good, with the orchestra richer, and the speaker unfortunately superimposed upon the proceedings in a fashion that recalls voice-overs. Supraphon’s resonance seems to me more appropriate for this piece than that of Naxos, which dulls the musical edge slightly through too large a hall sound. 

In short, the choice is yours. Both versions are good, though I’d give the nod to the more thoughtful Belohlávek. 

-- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE

More reviews:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Martinu-Epic-Gilgamesh-Prague-SO/dp/B000PFU8KW
https://www.amazon.com/Epic-Gilgamesh-DVO-ÁK-ANTONIN/dp/B000PFU8KW

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Bohuslav Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. In the early 1930s he found his main font for compositional style, the neo-classical as developed by Stravinsky. With this, he expanded to become a prolific composer, who wrote almost 400 pieces, included 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. He is compared with Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Central European ethnomusicology into his music.

***

Jiří Bělohlávek (born 24 February 1946) is a Czech conductor. He was a graduate of the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and later studied conducting, for two years, with Sergiu Celibidache. He was chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic from 1990 to 1992 and has hold the post since 2012. He was also the founder of the Prague Philharmonia. Bělohlávek has made recordings for the Supraphon, Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, Warner Classics and Deutsche Grammophon record labels.

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