CD review: Martinu’s Bouquet of Flowers

First published in the Guardian on 10 December, 2017

Martinu: Bouquet of Flowers
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Prague Philharmonic Choir/Netopil (Supraphon)

Bohuslav Martinu lived in Paris through the 1920s and got swept up in the city’s jazz and avant-garde scenes. Then in the early 1930s he turned his attention back to his native Moravian folk culture and wrote earthy, angular music that fused the lot — including his 1937 cantata Bouquet of Flowers. It’s for children’s chorus, soloists and orchestra and there’s no danger of missing the smell of the soil in these pungent tunes, but between the carols and cowherds come moments of impressively stark modernism which this account really illuminates. The voices of Katerina Knezikova and Michaela Kapustova are particularly rich together and Tomas Netopil conducts with a grand sweep. At the end of the disc we get the bruisingly nostalgic Philharmonic Dances by Martinu’s student Jan Novak — music from 1956 that swaggers and rambles. Unfortunately Jan wasn’t a patch on his teacher.