Prélude en forme de scherzo. Orchestral movement. Posvícení. Nocturno
Little Dance Suite
Ian Hobson, cond; Snf Varsovia
TOCCATA 0156 (67:38)
These are all first recordings of these early orchestral works by Martinů. The notes indicate that, with the sole exception of the orchestral arrangement of the brief 1929
for piano, all of these works date from the period 1907-1919. Annotator Aleš Březina (director of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute in Prague) states bluntly that, “Knowing well the original sources and the editorial difficulties they involve, I have to express my deep admiration for the detective and archaeological skills…of the editor of most of these scores, Michael Crump.” Crump’s own, longer notes which follow indicate that the “handful of musicologists” who have examined these scores considered them to be “incomplete, incompetent or downright unplayable” due to the manuscripts having been left in “a rather poor condition” requiring “a considerable amount of editorial intervention.” Thus this CD, a splendid beginning to the orchestral works of this composer, is the first in an intended series of six to be issued.
Whatever the problems involved in the transcription and/or completion of these orchestral scores, and I concede that they may indeed have been considerable, the end result is a stunning vindication of hard work plus an inspired interpreter. Readers of my writings will know that I am and have been for some time a huge fan of Ian Hobson, both as pianist (specifically in his long-ranging series of Chopin releases on Zephyr) and conductor. Despite a tendency to play everything in a fairly straightforward manner with very little in the way of rubato or other modifications to the musical line, Hobson’s deeply ingrained sensitivity as a performer comes through in everything he does. For those who like to make comparisons, I would say that to some extent Hobson is like David Zinman with greater sensitivity to detail and dynamics. This is not a criticism of Zinman, whose work I have often found to be quite valid in itself, but by and large I find Hobson’s work just that much more sensitive to musical feeling, and this CD is no exception.
A good example of Hobson’s excellence may be heard not only in the slow works here (the
) but also in the pieces that Martinů based on folk music,
or (Harvest Festival) and the
Little Dance Suite.
Here, despite his being British, Hobson does a fine job of capturing the unusual rhythms of Czech music, thus he is able to project its underlying folk nature without the feeling of the rhythm being slightly “off.” Perhaps in this case, however, Hobson had the understanding and feeling of the musicians as well, since the Sinfonia Varsovia is an Eastern European orchestra of some distinction, being an augmented version of the former Polish Chamber Orchestra. Moreover, I must give high praise to the engineers, Gabriela Blicharz and Lech Dudzik, who managed to capture exceptionally clear yet slightly ambient sound for the group.
This is certainly a fine collection of early Martinů works. Highly recommended to fans of the composer and/or conductor.
Lynn René Bayley