Martinu: Spalícek [complete], Etc / Jílek, Et Al

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This is a recoupling made even more desirable than on its original issue by the inclusion of The Specter's Bride, Martinu's retelling of the same story set by Dvorák about a young girl who runs away with her dead lover's ghost, only to be rescued at the last minute from the cemetery by the arrival of dawn. It's a wonderful piece, as fine in its own way as Dvorák's setting, and, at half an hour, much shorter. Including it in this two-disc set makes a perfect program organized around settings of Czech folk poetry, the Dandelion Romance and The Primrose being two much shorter but very charming further examples.

The main attraction, however, is Špalícek, a ballet with songs in which each of the three acts incorporates the telling of a fairy tale, enhanced by plenty of additional dancing and commentary framing the main stories. The music is invariably appealing and rhythmically vivacious, Martinu in his most bubbly folk/neo-classical mode--and if you enjoy the suite (recorded by Mackerras on Conifer) then you will surely find the complete work equally enchanting.

All of the performances here are excellent in every respect. None of the soloists, save bass Richard Novák, are at all well known, but it doesn't matter a bit, while the conductors are veterans who can be counted on to deliver consistently idiomatic and persuasive results. Given the wide variety of forces--from full orchestra with chorus and soloists in The Specter's Bride and Špalícek to solo violin, piano, and a small group of sopranos and altos in The Primrose--the engineering is quite good. A major Martinu release, for sure.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 26, 2007

  • Catalog Number: SU3925-2

  • UPC: 099925392529

  • Label: Supraphon

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Composer: Bohuslav Martinů

  • Conductor: Frantisek Jilek, Jirí Belohlávek, Pavel Kühn

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra, Kantilena Children's Choir, Kühn Female Chorus, Kühn Mixed Chorus, Prague Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Anna Kratochvílová, Jirina Marková, Milada Cejková, Miroslav Kopp, Pavel Horácek, Petr Messiereur, Richard Novák, Stanislav Bogunia