Martinu Spalicek, etc
Although the orchestral suites have been recorded before, once on LP in the 1970s and more recently by Sir Charles Mackerras (Conifer, 3/92), the complete score of Spalicek is new to the catalogue. The work originally comes from 1931-32 and must have represented a reaction against the sophistication of life in Paris, where he was living. The piece has a fairly complex history and underwent some revision, but I must say that it makes an even more positive impression than do the more conventionally scored suites that were prepared under his supervision in 1940.
On the autograph Martinu speaks of it as ''a ballet of popular plays, customs and fairy-tales— ballet-revue'', and the score draws on folklore and children's songs to striking effect. The title is pretty untranslatable: the notes speak of it being associated with a celebrated collection of folk poetry illustrated by genre pictures of life in Czech villages. (The term was also applied, it would seem, to a thick book in the shape of a cube, popular in central Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.) The use of children's stories and the unaffected expressive style is to my mind totally disarming. The dances familiar from the suites are interspersed with vocal episodes, both solo and choral, and there is far greater variety of texture and pace. The three acts run to almost an hour and 40 minutes and although there are some longueurs they are very few.
For the most part this music is quite captivating, particularly given the charm of this performance—and at times, touching. The two slighter works which complete the second disc come from his last years, and though they are not a major discovery they also give pleasure. Recommended.'