The chamber music of Bohuslav Martinu, more French than Czech, suggests the music Debussy might have written had he lived to experience the full flowering of the neo-classic movement. No one would claim that it has a large emotional range, but for the imaginative use of textures within a restricted environment it's unmatched. The simplest pizzicato seems to carry all kinds of suspense, even as the general mood of the music remains blithe, even sunny in the case of the Sonata for flute and piano, H. 308, written as Martinu waited out World War II on Cape Cod. This Canadian recording includes a pair of fairly uncommon pieces with the word "madrigal" in the title; the Five Madrigal Stanzas for violin and piano, H. 297, are even more unusual in that they were dedicated to, and apparently first performed by, Albert Einstein on the violin. Their madrigalian qualities are subtle, and those immersed in neo-classic music may enjoy trying to pick them out. Martinu does not much alter his usual slightly extended harmonic language; instead, he tweaks the texture to evoke the free imitation of the English madrigal. This music is never less than pleasant, but the highlight, with the young Marc-André Hamelin on harpsichord, may be the Promenades for flute, violin, and harpsichord, H. 274, with razor-sharp exploitation of the texture contrasts possible with this unusual ensemble. The trio of Hamelin, French flutist Alain Marion, and French-Canadian violinist Angèle Dubeau, even though they are a trio of soloists rather than an established chamber group, captures the modest dimensions, humor, and deeply cooperative qualities of this music perfectly. It's a delight. The sound, captured in a church in suburban Montreal, is clear and not as remote as other recordings made in the same location.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata for flute, violin & piano, H. 254|
|Promenades (4) for flute, violin & harpsichord, H. 274|
|Sonata for flute & piano, H. 306|
|Madrigal Stanzas (5) for violin & piano, H. 297|
|Madrigal-Sonata for flute, violin & piano, H. 291|