Small Storms: Short Pieces by Martinů

Author: 
Guy Rickards

Small Storms: Short Pieces by Martinů

  • Variations on a theme of Rossini
  • Ariette-Vocalise
  • (7) Arabesques
  • Suite miniature
  • (4) Nocturnes
  • Variations on a Slovak folksong

Martinů’s three cello sonatas were preceded by a clutch of suites and movements written in Paris (mostly) in 1930-31. The largest of these, the six Pastorals, H190, is his longest for this combination but omitted from Navona’s ‘collection of short pieces by Bohuslav Martinů', replaced by the two vibrant sets of variations from 1942 (Rossini) and 1959 (Slovak), his most popular works for cello and piano.

This is the debut recording by Meredith Blecha-Wells, Associate Professor of Cello at Oklahoma State University. Hers is a beautifully full and lyrically strong tone, heard at its best in the Lento, the substantial second of the four Nocturnes (1931), and in the outer sections of the brief Ariette of the same year. The latter’s central section is in Martinů’s trademark ‘jazz’ style of the 1920s. Blecha-Wells is equally adept at faster, more vigorous music, as evident in the Seven Arabesques (1930), the subtitle of which – Études rhythmiques – gives the clue to their character. Listen to the Allegretto sixth, with its hints of Spanish dance.

There are other versions available of all these works but not gathered together on one disc (a couple of collections, not listed below, include the Pastorals but leave out something else). The programme as a whole is a delight, the bar set by the Variations on a Theme of Rossini which Blecha-Wells, immaculately supported (as throughout) by Sun Min Kim, milks for all its humorous potential. Theirs is a match for any of the accounts listed below and in any of these works they need fear little by comparison. Splendid, vivid sound from Navona, too. Recommended.

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