Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bohuslav Martinů - Kytice

Bohuslav Martinů was probably the greatest Czech composer of XX century. He was born in Polička in 1990 and died in Liestal, Switzerland in 1959.  His style evolved in opposite direction from neoclassical forms to post-romantic idiom. Before the war he was continuing the tradition of romantic national Czech music. Cantata cycle Kytice (Bouquet of Flowers), connected directly to homeland folklore, was one of his best works. In fact, it was more syncretic fusion of modern solutions and elements of folklore than continuation of the school founded by Antonin Dvořak or Bedřich Smetana.
In 1979 Panton Records active in capital of former Czechoslovakian Republic issued a series of records with best known Martinů’s works. Set of five records has been opened by cycle Kytice (Panton 8112 0021). This cycle of works, composed to folk texts for mixed and children choirs, soloists and small orchestra, has been written in 1937. Performed by musicians of Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Prague Philharmonic Choir and soloists – four singers, two pianists and one harmonium player under baton of Libor Pešek, these recordings became great opening of the series.

Bohuslav Martinů - Kytice
The record cover features Jan Zrzavý’s picture Krucemburk.  Jan Zrzavý was a famous Czech artist and a close friend of composer. This is why Martinů dedicated the whole cycle Kytice to Zrzavý. Vision of the town Krucemburk, where time slowly flows by and past meets the future in sleepy small marketplace, could be just an ideal background for creation of Martinů's work. The same way he is joining tradition and modernity.  Martinů made his cantata neoclassical in construction and its strong rhythms are close to the one used in Les Noces (The Wedding) by Igor Stravinsky. This connection is confirmed by using piano as a part of accompanying orchestra, which is characteristic not only for this cycle. In comparison to Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Martinů’s work is much more complex in using various sets of voices and instruments. In Kytice folk lyrics are the basis for creating simply and modern, strong and expressive picture of human joy and destiny.

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