French-Influenced Piano Miniatures
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/27/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If I hadn't read the CD label, I might have thought on hearing the music here that it was by a member of Les Six or one of their followers. These are French-influenced pieces that are, like much music by Les Six, influenced strongly by early American jazz. Martinu was not a pianist but he wrote a lot of piano music and it appears that it was all expertly done, at least from the evidence of this second volume of what appears to be a project to record all of Martinu's piano music. Martinu: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1
Four sets of 'Puppet Music', comprising fourteen miniatures totaling about thirty minutes of music, contain pieces with titles like 'Pierrot's Serenade', 'Harlequin', 'The Shy Puppet', and 'Shimmy', the latter influenced by a dance craze from American that had reached Paris in the 1920s. Of course, Martinu was living in Paris for much of his early adulthood and even after many years residence in the US (after 1940) he continued to miss Parisian life. This is obvious in the latest pieces played here -- 'The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon' and 'Les bouquinistes du Quai Malaquais[. The first of these was dedicated to the Chinese-born wife of Martinu's great friend, fellow composer Alexander Tcherepnin. The second commemorates happy days Martinu had haunting used book stalls in Paris in the 1920s, although the piece itself was written in nostalgic recollection from his vantage point of New York in the 1940s.
'Film en miniature' containing six pieces none over two minutes, has a scherzo that sounds a lot like Poulenc's 'Toccata'. It also contains a sexy 'Tango' and a cheeky 'Valse.' The CD also contains two of Martinu's 'garden suites': 'Spring in the Garden' (which describes children's games remembered from Martinu's Czech childhood) and 'Butterflies and Birds of Paradise', inspired by Czech artist Max Svabinský's collection of butterflies and birds. Debussy's influence is obvious in these works.
These are probably not deathless works, but they are charming, lightly scored and entirely tonal. They are occasionally virtuosic but mostly high-quality salon music. They are played gorgeously by talented Czech-Swiss pianist Giorgio Koukl in lifelike sound.
L. Polgar | Laguna Beach, CA | 09/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The French word 'badinage' comes to mind when listening to these pieces. Although they are reminiscent of the humor of Eric Satie, they also contain the whimsy of Rameau's La poule in their sheer playfulness. I heard them on the radio and immediately bought them. I believe they are unlike any other piece by Martinu and can stand on their own for originality. Light, fun music for when you are in the mood and desire something different from the usual music of Satie."