Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Martinu Early Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 Provides Context

The major work of this release is "Vanishing Night." Martinu revised it with the help of his teacher Josef Suk. The music is a compendium of Martinu's early impressionist style.

Originally, it was thought that only a portion of "Vanishing Midnight" survived. Recently orchestral parts for the missing movements were rediscovered. For the first time, the work can be heard in its entirety. It's well worth hearing.

This three-movement composition shows a composer in transition. It doesn't quite have the Czech character that Martinu's mature works would exhibit. And it doesn't quite have the syncopations, either. But it's very close.

"Ballade after Böcklin’s picture: Villa by the Sea" is the only surviving movement from a 1915 set of symphonic dances. The music is as impressionistic and indefinite as the image itself. Böcklin created five different versions of "Villa by the Sea," each one slightly different.

Martinu's score is also somewhat ambivalent. Shifting key centers, shimmering harmonies, and irregular melodies remind me of Debussy's soft-focus impressionism. And yet there's something about this work that hints at the symphonist Martinu would become.

"Dream of the Past," written five years later, presages more strongly Martinu's mature style. It's a somewhat somber work, with a heavy dose of chromaticism.

Conductor Ian Hobson and the Sinfonia Varsvia turn in some fine performances. These may not be the best works by Martinu, but this recording makes that case that they deserve more than just an occasional listen.

Bohuslav Martinu: Early Orchestral Works, Volume 3
Sinfonia Varsivia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics

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