Symphony No. 1, H 289


  • Recorded: 15th January 2016
  • Record Place: The Dvořák Hall of Rudolfinum, Prague
  • First Release: 2018
  • (P) 2018 SUPRAPHON a.s.
  • Genre: Vocal


  • music by: Bohuslav Martinů
  • conductor: Jiří Bělohlávek
  • musical group: Czech Philharmonic


Czech Philharmonic, Jiří Bělohlávek

Martinů: What Men Live By, Symphony No. 1

Catalogue Number: SU 4233-2
Published: 19th October 2018
Genre: Opera
Format: 1 CD
This album has received following awards:
  • Top 100 Recordings of the Year, Presto Classical (2018)
Bohuslav Martinů - What Men Live By, Symphony No. 1 / Czech Philharmonic, Jiří Bělohlávek

What Men Live By H 336 (1952) - Opera-pastoral in one act. Libretto by Bohuslav Martinů after the novel by Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy Where love is, God is (Martin the Cobbler). Symphony No. 1 H 289 (1942)

Ivan Kusnjer, Petr Svoboda, Jan Martiník, Lucie Silkenová, Ester Pavlů, Jaroslav Březina, Josef Špaček (narrator), Lukáš Mareček. Martinů Voices, choirmaster Lukáš Vasilek,Czech Philharmonic, conductor Jiří Bělohlávek

Jiří Bělohlávek (1946-2017) was an important worldwide ambassador of Bohuslav Martinů's music. For the Supraphon label alone he recorded nearly forty of Martinů's symphonic compositions, concertos, and stage works, and many of these were world premiere recordings. Despite large-scale plans, this recording also represents both the highpoint and the conclusion of Bělohlávek's noteworthy discography of Martinů's works. The premiere recording of the opera-pastoral What Men Live By was made from three concert performances in December 2014 (the production earned a nomination for the International Opera Award). Martinů composed it to his own libretto in America at the turn of 1951-52, and he had a clear idea concerning its performance: "It must not be played 'pathetically', but joyfully. ... The text strongly tempts one to come up with a very serious, 'deep' conception, but that is not what I had in mind. To me, it is a rather joyful work, and what the listener must feel is not some sort of religious moral (lesson), but instead joy. The moral is in fact in the joy." This recording of the Symphony No. 1 was made in January 2016, and it joins the earlier releases of Symphonies Nos. 3-6 (SU3631-2, SU4007-2). It was part of a planned but unfortunately unfinished complete set of Martinů's late orchestral works. Bělohlávek's tenure with the Czech Philharmonic during the last five years of his life was a very happy time for both parties, and it led to the development of new qualities in the orchestra's sound. This recording shall endure as living proof of what was a very special constellation of humanity and artistry.

Jiří Bělohlávek's final word on the music of Bohuslav Martinů


“The first documented performances were apparently given with piano only, which seems rather a pity given the inventiveness of Martinů’s orches­tration, but this fine premiere recording showcases the score’s vivid colours in all their glory… Bělohlávek gets the balance between solemn religiosity and rustic energy just right – witness the bucolic, whooping horns as day dawns on the frigid little workshop, or the pungent harmonica wielded by the cheeky apple-thief. The vocal soloists capture the speech-song quality which Martinů wanted to perfection rather than approaching the piece like scaled-down verismo (though the full-blooded lyricism which alto Ester Pavlů brings to the Old Woman’s little arietta is also a joy); that the English pronunciation (particularly from Ivan Kusnjer’s Martin) is idiosyncratic only adds to the overall atmosphere and charm.”
Presto Classical, October 2018

“Jiří Bělohlávek nimmt sich ganz zurück, das Orchester ziseliert fein, die Sänger (samt dem Konzertmeister als Erzähler) machen viel aus ihren kleinen Personen-Mosaiksteinchen. Das ist so eingängig wie scheinbar simpel verfertigt, doch atmosphärisch dicht und dramatisch stimmig. Und offenbart wieder eine neue Martinů-Facette. Und eine fein ausgehörte, spritzig schäumende erste Sinfonie gibt es als allerletzes Bělohlávek-Tondokument noch dazu.”
Oper! December 2018

Bohuslav Martinů
What Men Live By, H 336
Overture 00:59
Scene 1 " In a certain town there lived an old man" 02:46
Scene 2 "His wife and his child had died" 07:33
Scene 3 "The morning, Avdeitch rose before daylight..." 08:11
Scene 4 "My Dear, I say, my dear" 06:49
Scene 5 "Let him go!" 12:43
Bohuslav Martinů
Symphony No. 1, H 289
Moderato 10:01
Scherzo - Allegro 07:32
Largo 09:48
Allegro non troppo 09:29