The capacity for composition within the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu
was vast. Once his early dabblings with a stylistic language to suit his
musical predilections were over he set forth within the generous boundaries
of neoclassicism. Unlike many composers who have nervously tried this with
little conviction, Martinu appeared to have found his metiér. His
mastery of the neoclassic vocabulary was soon secure and the flood barriers
were swept away. His swollen compositions list tells its own tale with the
inevitable outcome of good and inferior music rubbing shoulders.
two piano quintets are from 1933 and 1944 respectively, thereby separated
in time and place: his Paris days for the first [click
to listen], his American exile for the second [click
to listen]. The usual assurance attends both works, which also submit
to conventional padding at times. Martinu has a dashing way with fast movements,
especially when delicacy is required and there's glitter in the air. Taken
as a whole, both quintets maintain interest initially. It is in subsequent
hearings that your musical detection quivers with touches of irritation
as some of the gloss wears thin.
The early quartet has movements that give promise for the future, but
I hear too much that speaks stiffly and gives the ear and mind little nourishment
[click to listen]. Strangely, the underlying
thematic basis is the evangelical tune to Nearer my God to thee.
Worthy of note is the excellence of the playing from strings and piano:
an ensemble with real rapport.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey, November
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