masek / martinu - awards

Norman Lebrecht, London

CD of the week by Norman Lebrecht

Bohuslav Martinu has dropped so far below the radar that he has lost parity with such compatriots as Janacek, Suk and Smetana. A victim of fluctuating fashions, he is a composer of great elegance, constant invention and, sometimes, excessive serenity. Too many opus numbers – more than 400 – make it hard for musicians to present him with any expectation of public familiarity, even in his own country. Much of his work is left to gather dust.

This project by the Czech pianist Michal Masek - is a double discovery, a retrieval of largely unplayed piano music along with some of Martinu’s humourous sketches and concert-stage drawings. There is wit and warmth in both art forms. A piano turns in one sketch into a roaring bear, threate ning to crush the red-faced performer. One set of piano pieces is called Butterflies and Birds of Paradise. The sounds are enchanting, realistic, yet never banal. Another is a victory march for his local sports club, utilitarian yet attention compelling.

Masek plays with quiet intensity, sanitised of the sentiment that Rudolf Firkusny, the foremost Martinu interpreter, was prone to indulge. The longer you listen, the more you want to hear. The record is produced by EMI’s division, you won’t be disappointed.

Martinů: Etudes and Polkas; Butterflies and Birds of Paradise; Sonata for Piano; Album Leaf ; Borová (moderato); Black Bottom; Victorious March of the R.U.R. Sports Club of Polička
Michal Mašek (piano)
EMI Classics/Morpheus Art 50999 0 269162 6