Bohuslav Martinu composed endlessly, a sure way of becoming musically
punch drunk and letting your guard slip. What from his output is good is
usually very good. His unremitting eclecticism, however, left a riot of
utilitarian music expertly crafted, clean and bright, but less than uplifting.
choral works depend very much on texts for drawing out a musical coat of
good cloth and design. Martinu was greatly attracted to Czech folk poetry,
and that element immediately lifts his folk settings to a higher level of
invention. Several sets are on this CD, all without question treating the
words to a sensitive, colourful texture. (click
A few church texts are set, indeed two of them, including a Mass, were
unfinished. Roman Valek, the group's conductor, has reconstructed and completed
the Mass, which looks back to the polyphonic era. A solitary organ piece
from 1959, Vigil, compels a feeling of an improvisatory adventure,
given the juxtaposition of 20th century harmonic freedom and diatonicism
freely used by Martinu.
The Brno Madrigal Quintet is so musical and pliant in ensemble that almost
any reasonable music would take on a sheen of quality. (That is not a sidekick
at Martinu.) These settings, especially the madrigals, are rewarding (click for music) Recorded in a large church,
the 'sheen' has an extra coat of resonance.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey,
September 15th 1999
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