Classical Album of the Week, The Sunday Times (2021)
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) - Overture, H 345 (1953); Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca, H 352 (1955); The Parables, H 367 (1957); The Rock, H 363 (1957); Estampes, H 369 (1958)
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tomáš Netopil
"And the sculptor fixes the likeness of a face in clay. And you walked by and passed before his work, and you glanced at the face and then walked on your way. And then it happened that you were not quite the same. Slightly changed, but changed." The motto Bohuslav Martinů chose from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Citadelle for one of his Parables also poetically defines the transformational power of his final orchestral opuses. Following the six symphonies composed in the USA, he wrote them in Europe, much closer to his homeland. The orchestral triptych Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca was inspired by the work of the Italian Renaissance master. As Martinů himself put it: "The frescoes harbour a peculiar kind of solemn and rigid tranquillity, abounding in strange, serene and moving poetry; it is the darkened coloured atmosphere I strove to express in music." The Parables is another piece in which Martinů reflected his philosophical ideas, with each of its three movements treating an allegory of life and human quest in the world. The symphonic prelude The Rock refers to the landing place of the English settlers who came to North America in 1619, as well as Martinů's own fate as a homeless pilgrim. Martinů's very last symphonic work, Estampes, comes across more as a fine drawing interwoven with silence than an impasto, as is the case of his previous orchestral pieces. These brilliant, extraordinary Martinů works are yet to gain the recognition they so richly deserve. The new Supraphon recording, made by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra under the renowned conductor Tomáš Netopil, affords hope that this will be set right. It would be a pity to miss out on such beauty.
Bohuslav Martinů's late pinnacles - beauty and profundity yet to be discovered
“The performances under Tomáš Netopil are obviously idiomatic – these major scores are more or less repertory pieces for the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra… These are fascinating works, especially for British listeners, who don’t often get the opportunity to hear this music in the concert hall. The other pieces on the disc – an Overture from 1953, the symphonic prelude The Rock of four years later, and the three Estampes, the last orchestral work Martinů completed, in 1958 – are genuine rarities.” The Guardian, October 2021
“These Prague performances, conducted with dedication and flair by Martinu’s compatriot, Netopil, deserve to win more friends for this still underplayed music. ” The Sunday Times, October 2021