Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, though essentially part of the French neo-classic school, was touched as well by Bartók and American jazz. A certain droll quality runs through many of his works, and it's brought out well here by the Holst Sinfonietta under conductor Klaus Simon. This Naxos release can be recommended both for those seeking a Martinu sampler and for confirmed fans. The latter recommendation is due to the inclusion of a reconstructed, premiered, and worthwhile work, La revue de cuisine: Ballet du Jazz, composed at the height of the French jazz craze in 1927. It's a suite of mostly short movements that take some detail of jazz (really ragtime is Martinu's most common reference point) as a starting point for a coherent little structure, and it's delightful (even the Marche funèbre). The reconstruction was done by none other than early music specialist Christopher Hogwood. Also noteworthy is the Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra, composed in 1935, just when Wanda Landowska and her student Marcelle de Lacour (its dedicatee) were popularizing the harpsichord in Paris. Martinu's orchestration is masterful here; the winds are deployed with attacks that make them sound almost, but not quite, like a second harpsichord. Chamber Music No. 1, composed in 1959 and one of Martinu's last works, also contains unusual effects, this time based on the combination of harp and piano. Les rondes is a work suggesting Czech round dances. The Southwest German Radio studio sound is excellent, and the music by this underrated composer is enjoyable from start to finish.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerto for Harpsichord and Small Orchestra, H. 246|
|Chamber Music No. 1 ("Les fêtes nocturnes"), H. 376|
|Les rondes, H. 200|
|La revue de cuisine: Ballet du Jazz, H. 161|