MARTINU: Flute Trios / Promenades / Madrigal Sonata

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Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)

Trio for flute, cello and piano

Trio for flute, violin and piano

Promenades for flute, violin andharpsichord

Madrigal Sonata for flute,violin and piano


The Czechcomposer Bohuslav Martinu was born in 1890 at Policka in Bohemia in a bell-tower, where his father, a shoe-maker bytrade, was employed as watchman. In his childhood he learned the violin from alocal tailor and made a local reputation for himself, giving his first publicconcert in his home-town in 1905. At the same time he concentrated attention oncomposition, although without proper tuition and lacking even the necessarymanuscript-paper for the purpose. In 1906 he became a violin student at thePrague Conservatory, but four years later, after relegation for one year to theOrgan School, he was expelled.


His principal interest, in fact, continued tocentre on composition, and he pursued this aim during the war, which he spentas a teacher in Policka. In 1918 he joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra asa violinist and his ballet Istar, completed in 1922, was performed in1924. There had been a brief period of instruction in composition from Josef Sukat the Conservatory, soon abandoned, and in 1923, assisted by a scholarship, hemoved to Paris to become a pupilof, Albert Roussel.


In the following years Martinu's music began togain a hearing, particularly through Talich in Czechoslovakia, Paul Sacher andErnest Ansermet in Switzerland, Henry Wood in England, Munch in France and Koussevitzky inthe United States.

By 1931 he had established himself well enough to marry a young dressmaker,Charlotte Quennehen, although he never earned enough to allow even reasonablecomfort. The first performance of his Concerto Grosso planned by Talichin 1938 was postponed with the invasion of Czechoslovakia that year and inJune 1940 he and his wife hurriedly fled from Paris, four days before the Germanarmies marched into the city. With considerable difficulty they made their wayto Portugal and thence toBermuda, reaching New York at the end of March 1941. In the United States Martinueventually received commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation, for which hewrote his First Symphony. This was followed by further symphonies andconcertos, including a violin concerto commissioned by Mischa Elman, while in1943 his Memorial Stanzas, dedicated to Albert Einstein, was played bythe famous scientist with the pianist Robert Casadesus. After the war heplanned to return to Prague, where he had been offered the position of professor ofcomposition at the Conservatory, but was prevented from doing so by theaccession to power of the Communist Party. In 1948 he became professor ofcomposition at Princeton University, returning to Europe in 1953. He lived in Nice until1955, when he moved to Philadelphia to teach at the Curtis Institute and thefollowing year returned to Europe to teach at the American Academy in Rome. After a period inNice, he spent his final years in Switzerland, where he died of cancer in1959.


Martinu was an enormously prolific composer, whoseemed often enough careless of the fate of what he had written. He tended toavoid revision of his compositions and in consequence the vast quantity ofmusic he wrote is of uneven quality and varying style, although he came, in the1930s, to make increasing use of Czech thematic material and to be identifiedwith his native country, from which he remained an exile. Nevertheless therewere influences to be absorbed in Paris during the seventeen years he spent there, andmuch of this is evident in the trios for flute, string instrument and piano orharpsichord.


Martinu wrote his Trio for flute, cello andpiano in 1944 and it belongs, therefore, to his period of exile in America. It opensvigorously, transparent in texture, with much use initially made of the notesof the descending scale. The cello introduces a new thematic element,sequentially developed before the return of the opening theme, leading to anexciting conclusion. The second movement, marked Adagio, is introduced bythe piano, later to be joined by the flute, with the plucked notes of the celloin accompaniment. Flute and cello then lead forward into music of strongfeeling, in which the piano joins, before subsiding into tranquillity. Theflute provides the introductory Andante with which the third movementbegins. Before leading into a very lively finale, which brings its own momentsof lyrical relaxation of tension, before the return of the opening scherzando.


The Trio for flute, violin and piano waswritten in 1937, while Martinu was still in Paris. Politically this was a periodof particular disturbance, not least in view of the predicament in which Czechoslovakia was involved. It isbroadly neo-classical in form and texture, with a lively first movement. The pianointroduces a secondary theme in contrast, but the prevailing mood is that ofthe opening. There follows an Adagio with interwoven melodic strandsfrom the three instruments. Something of the mood of the first movement returnswith the third movement Allegretto, a scherzo with a trio sectiondominated by the flute, before the violin takes up the thread. The trio endswith a movement marked Moderato that, as from time to time with earliermovements, momentarily suggests Prokofiev, only to turn to an overtly romanticflute episode, the serenity of which is broken by the twentieth centurycounterpoint of the piano in which flute and violin soon join.


Martinu wrote his Promenades in 1939. Thechoice of harpsichord, with flute and violin, is in accordance with theneo-classical spirit of the period. The first energetic movement is followed bya gentle flute aria, in which the violin joins in duet. The third of the Promenades,marked scherzando, is capricious in humour and is followed by afinal Poco allegro with a conclusion of increased rapidity.


The Madrigalovli Sonata was written in1942, during Martinu's first year in America. The opening Poco allegro islively enough, marked by syncopations that contribute to the character of themusic, followed by a second movement Moderato. Here the flute, withvestigial accompaniment, provides the opening melodic interest, followed by theinterplay of flute, violin and piano. This leads to a conclusion of initialvigour, subsiding into a gentler mood with the return of the flute melody,before the final idiosyncratic syncopation.

Catalogue number 8553459
Barcode 0730099445924
Release date 01/01/2000
Label Naxos
Format CD
Number of discs 1
Composers Martinu, Bohuslav
Martinu, Bohuslav
Orchestras Feinstein Ensemble
Producers Connor, Bill
Disc: 1
Madrigal Sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano
1 Poco allegretto
2 Adagio
3 Andante - Allegretto scherzando
4 Allegro poco moderato
5 Adagio
6 Allegretto
7 Moderato (poco allegro)
8 Poco allegro
9 Adagio
10 Scherzando
11 Poco allegro
12 Poco allegro
13 Moderato
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