Bohuslav Martinů and Karel Husa were both Czech classical music composers who spent most of their lives abroad, particularly in Paris and America. Both of them studied in Paris with important figures (such as Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger in Husa’s case and Albert Roussel and Charles Koechlin in Martinů’s case). Both of them had French wives. Both of them were influenced by Moravian folk music and folk music in general, which can be heard especially in their works for clarinet. Both of them received prestigious awards, for example, the Pulitzer Prize and the Grawemeyer Award (Husa), and the Czechoslovak State Award (Martinů). Young clarinettist Anna Paulová (b. 1993), who won the 2016 Bohuslav Martinů Foundation Interpretation Competition for her performance of Husa’s Three Studies for solo clarinet, decided to dedicate her debut album to Husa and Martinů and invited many top-class instrumentalists to the recording studio, such as pianist Ivo Kahánek and violinist Jan Fišer. The album will be released by Supraphon on 9 June 2023 on CD and in digital formats.
Composer Karel Husa gained valuable experience in Paris in the 1940s and 50s. However, one of his important sources of inspiration was the folk music of his native country and of the neighbouring Slovakia. It is noticeable in his Evocations of Slovakia and Four Bohemian Sketches. In his earlier pieces for various instruments with the clarinet we can hear a more innovative and experimenting Husa, who, on the other hand, remains clear and friendly to the listener. As a kind of prelude, clarinettist Anna Paulová’s record includes the beautiful and occasionally mournful Sonatina by Bohuslav Martinů.
“On my new album I would like to present chamber music pieces by Karel Husa and Bohuslav Martinů in various instrumentation. The two composers had a similar destiny and they were both fond of folk music and folklore,” says Paulová, adding: “I think that as Czech people we can best understand Czech composers. Let me quote Karel Husa: 'Czech music is an international phenomenon.' It is the task of us, performers, to represent Czech music abroad as well as to perform the music of the world’s composers in the Czech Republic.”
Anna Paulová rehearsed Husa’s Three Studies for solo clarinet and then became the overall winner of the aforementioned competition with this composition. She wanted to contact and thank Karel Husa because she was truly impressed by the piece. Shortly after that she learned the news of his death. Later on, she began to learn some of his other compositions, such as Sonata à tre for violin, clarinet and piano and the Evocations of Slovakia for clarinet, viola and cello. What she found interesting was the way Karel Husa used new technical and expressional possibilities of the clarinet, such as breath tone, reedy tone and natural tone. Anna likes the fact that even though each of his compositions is different, it clearly shows its sense of structure and its inspiration by Moravian folk music.
In recording her Supraphone debut, Anna Paulová surrounded herself with excellent musicians: pianist Ivo Kahánek, flautist Oto Reiprich, bassoonist Jan Hudeček, violinist Jan Fišer, violist Kristina Fialová and cellist Vilém Vlček. Her recording raises hopes of the works of the remarkable composer being brought to wider notice.