The Bohuslav Martinů's opera-pastoral What Men Live By recorded by
Czech Philharmonic and Jiří Bělohlávek has been chosen as the Disc of the
Month in the latest publication of Opera magazine.
„Bělohlávek’s affection for the music shines through in every
bar, and no one understood better where this oftenoverlooked score sits in the
composer’s wider oeuvre. The veteran baritone Ivan Kusnjer is apt casting as
Martin Avdeitch, creating a touching portrait of the conscientious old cobbler.
Other singers include Jan Martiník (the old soldier Stepanitch, voiced in a
resonant bass), Lucie Silkenová (Woman with a Child, her soprano carrying with
Slavonic glint) and Ester Pavlů (Old Woman, with a warm-toned mezzo).
Commanding the strongest English and a tenor of ringing heft is Jaroslav
Březina as the Narrator, who makes the storytelling quite gripping. The chamber
choir Martinů Voices fulfils its Greek-chorus-meets-Bach role strongly.
Martinů wrote that he wanted the work to be performed joyfully and without
either religious heaviness or operatic affectation—‘It should be sung like a
folk song, devoid of pathos. I think that the text itself is beautiful and so
it does not need to be in any way enhanced’—and this recording captures that