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 tone perfectly.“