Martinu Symphony No 6; Bouquet
Martinu's brilliant, richly imaginative Sixth Symphony was one of 15 works written to celebrate the Boston Symphony Orchestra's seventy-fifth anniversary in 1955. It was first performed under the baton of Charles Munch, the orchestra's Musical Director, whose abilities were much admired by the composer. Their recording, made not long after the premiere (RCA, 3/58 – nla), has therefore a certain historical authenticity. The symphony's Czech flavour is also very evident, however, and Karel Ancerl, who gave the first performance in Prague, was a noted exponent of the piece. Martinu had once been a member of the Czech Philharmonic, and was delighted when he heard his old orchestra play the symphony under their Chief Conductor via a broadcast. In his 1956 recording Ancerl obtains virtuoso, highly committed playing, but the sound is a little thin and one-dimensional.
Bouquet of Flowers was written in 1937, at a time when Martinu was resident in Paris, although the first performance was given in Prague under Otakar Jeremias. It is in eight sections, five of which comprise settings of sometimes violent, pungently expressive folk poetry. There are also three purely instrumental movements, which are themselves highly evocative. Ancerl leads a vivid performance, which occasionally sounds a little like Stravinsky's Les noces with a Czech accent, and there is certainly a period flavour in both the solo and choral singing. The recording is a little more realistic here. '