Martinu Unpublished Vocal Works
Martinu’s vocal music is well represented in the catalogue, notably by The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Greek Passion, but his songs are unfamiliar and seldom included in live recitals.
Now comes a first-class and very generous collection of the earlier examples and a few later ones. As this disc is labelled Vol 1, presumably the rest are to follow. The only drawback is the absence of texts and translations, but I am anxious not to emphasise that lack, for when the songs are as beautifully and often movingly sung as they are here by Jana Wallingerov·, and the piano accompaniments – a pleasure in themselves – are so felicitously and sensitively played by Giorgio Koukl, this CD affords much enjoyment. In any case, many of the songs are very short and so obviously encapsulate their titles, so one does not feel short-changed. The opening Six Simple Songs are each around a minute long and are immediately engaging; they are followed by Three Lullabies, of which the third, ìRocking and Swayingî, is particularly delightful.
All the items that have Halbreich numbers H81 or lower (except H74) date from the composer’s earlier years, from 1910 to 1912, and the pair of songs H31 are quite lovely. The touching ìTearsî, the lighter ìA Girl’s Dreamsî and the nostalgic ìWhen we are both oldî readily communicate without translation. Among the later Children’s Songs, H146, the evocation of ìThe Christmas Treeî is particularly memorable. But the most unpredictably original item here is the sprightly (1939) Czech Riddles (based on folk texts), which constantly changes mood and tempo, followed by ìbird talkî, echoed by the piano and climaxing with a harsh crow call! All in all, this is a most rewarding disc, throwing new light on its composer. It is very well recorded, too.