About this Recording
8.553916 - MARTINU: Chamber Music
English 

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Chamber Music from The 1994 Australian Festival of Chamber Music
Piano Quartet No. 1
Quartet for oboe, violin, cello and piano
Sonata No.1 for viola and piano
String Quintet for two violins, two violas and cello

The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů was born in 1890 at Polička in Bohemia in a bell-tower, where his father, a shoe-maker by trade, was employed as watchman. In his childhood he learned the violin from a local tailor and made a local reputation for himself, giving his first public concert in his home-town in 1905. At the same time he concentrated attention on composition, although without proper tuition and lacking even the necessary manuscript-paper for the purpose. In 1906 he became a violin student at the Prague Conservatory, but four years later, after relegation for one year to the Organ School, he was expelled. His principal interest, in fact, continued to centre on composition, and he pursued this aim during the war, which he spent as a teacher in Polička. In 1918 he joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist and his ballet Istar, completed in 1922, was performed in 1924. There had been a brief period of instruction in composition from Josef Suk at the Conservatory, soon abandoned, and in 1923, assisted by a scholarship, he moved to Paris to become a pupil of Albert Roussel.

In the following years Martinů's music began to gain a hearing, particularly through Talich in Czechoslovakia, Paul Sacher and Ernest Ansermet in Switzerland, Henry Wood in England, Munch in France and Koussevitzky in the 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 reasonable comfort. The first performance of his Concerto Grosso planned by Talich in 1938 was postponed with the invasion of Czechoslovakia that year and in June 1940 he and his wife hurriedly fled from Paris, four days before the Germany armies marched into the city. With considerable difficulty they made their way to Portugal and thence to Bermuda, reaching New York at the end of March 1941. In the United States Martinů eventually received commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation, for which he wrote his First Symphony. This was followed by further symphonies and concertos, including a violin concerto commissioned by Mischa Elman, while in 1943 his Memorial Stanzas, dedicated to Albert Einstein, were played by the famous scientist with the pianist Robert Casadesus. After the war he planned to return to Prague, where he had been offered the position of professor of composition at the Conservatory, but was prevented from doing so by the accession to power of the Communist Party. In 1948 he became professor of composition at Princeton University, returning to Europe in 1953. He lived in Nice unti11955, when he moved to Philadelphia to teach at the Curtis Institute and the following year returned to Europe to teach at the American Academy in Rome. He spent his final years in Switzerland, where he died of cancer in 1959.

Martinů was an enormously prolific composer, who seemed often enough careless of the fate of what he had written. He tended to avoid revision of his work and in consequence the vast quantity of music he wrote is of uneven quality and varying style, although he came, in the 1930s, to make increasing use of Czech thematic material and to be identified with his native country, from which he remained an exile.

Martinů wrote his Piano Quartet No. 1 in 1942, after his arrival in the United States. The first movement, marked Poco allegro, opens with a characteristic figure that is to undergo further development as the germ from which the music grows, further motor energy provided by the inherent element of syncopation and in the delicate piano passage-work. A heartfelt Adagio follows, opened by the poignant sound of the strings, an air of melancholy always implied in the descending melodic contours. The piano makes a much later appearance, lightening the mood, although melancholy finally predominates. The piano leads gently into the final Allegretto poco moderato, with material that suggests Appalachia, and it is this that brings the work to an end, after intervening episodes.

Martinů wrote his Quartet for oboe, violin, cello and piano in 1947. Again opening motifs assume importance, as the first movement develops in almost classical textures of clarity. The piano opens the following movement, marked Adagio, with grandiose chords, diminishing, as the other instruments appear in all their initial delicacy. This leads to a final Poco allegro that provides an element of caprice in its passing suggestions of popular song in its thematic material.

Martinů's Viola Sonata was written in 1955, at a time when the composer, after two years in Nice, had decided to return to America, now to teach at the Curtis Institute. Finding life in the United States increasingly uncongenial, he moved in the following year to Rome to teach at the American Academy, where employment was now offered. The first movement of this useful addition to viola repertoire is characterized by syncopation of rhythm, while allowing the viola a lyrical melodic line. The Allegro non troppo proves lively enough at first in a movement that offers moments of tranquillity and even of the histrionic in its varied course.

The String Quintet, scored, like Mozart's string quintets, for two violas rather than Schubert's two cellos, was composed in 1927 and is a work of much greater tension, with harmonies and rhythms that suggest Bartók. The work was awarded the Coolidge Prize. The vigorous and occasionally strident first movement is followed by a melancholy Largo in distinct contrast of mood, as melodic lines are interwoven and dissonances resolve, finally ascending to the heights, before the hushed conclusion. The Allegretto starts cheerfully enough, its opening theme giving way to more lyrical material, the two elements providing contrast in a satisfying finale.

The Australian Festival of Chamber Music

Tropical North Queensland may, at first, appear to be an atypical location for an arts event of international stature, yet the city of Townsville has annually, since 1991, hosted Australia's foremost music festival, The Australian Festival of Chamber Music. The festival has featured the world's pre-eminent soloists, chamber musicians and pedagogues in a series of concerts and masterclasses, for the most talented young musicians from the South Pacific region, each July.

The festival was established in 1990 by Ray Golding, Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University and Chairman of the festival's Board, and Theodore Kuchar, the festival's Artistic Director. Today, the festival exists largely through the financial support of its principal sponsor, James Cook University of North Queensland. With a series of some seventy events during the first five years, with approximately 40,000 attending most festival performances have been broadcast by Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Classic FM, with subsequent re-broadcasts in the United States and New Zealand.

The festival has unquestionably, through the enthusiasm of the national and international media, earned its place among the elite of the international festival circuit. David Denton, in the October, 1995 issue of London's "The Strad", reported:

"Into the period curiously termed winter when the temperature may drop just below 30 degrees C – some of the world's finest musicians arrive for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, one of the most unique musical events held in a tropical location and placing Townsville on the map of the world's major festivals."

Daniel Adni
Daniel Adni has clearly established himself as one of the foremost pianists of his generation. Since his sensational début at the age of nineteen, with Otto Klempererand the New Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London, he has appeared as soloist with most of the major orchestras in the United Kingdom, as well as having toured extensively in Europe, Israel, South Africa and the Far East. He presently serves as the pianist of the London-based Solomon Trio.

Kathryn Selby
Australian born Kathryn Selby is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she won the Gold Medal and the Rachmaninov Prize, and holds a Master's Degree from the Juilliard School. She has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia and Boston Pops Orchestras and the Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, National, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. Selby is an experienced chamber musician, having taken part in the Marlboro, Spoleto and Midsummer Mozart (San Francisco) Festivals and is a founding member of Australia's foremost piano Trio, the Macquarie Trio.

Charmian Gadd
The Australian violinist Charmian Gadd returned to Australia in 1988 after spending twenty-three years in the America and Europe. Her international career has included solo performances with many of the world's finest orchestras, chamber music appearances and professorships at two American universities. Her principal teachers were Richard Goldner, Josef Gingold, Henryk Szeryng and Janos Starker. She holds Diplomas of Honour from both the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Competitions and was a prizewinner in international violin competitions in Vienna and Philadelphia. In 1988, Gadd became Head of the String Department at the Canberra School of Music and is currently Professor of Violin at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Solomia Soroka
Solomia Soroka was born in Lviv. Ukraine and, at the age of twenty-five, is one of the most internationally accomplished Ukrainian musicians of her generation. She graduated from the Kiev State Conservatory, earning a Master's Degree with the highest distinction while having studied with Olga Parkhomenko and Bogodar Kotorovitch. She now serves as a lecturer in violin and chamber music at that institution. She made her solo début with orchestra at the age of ten playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then she has represented her country at concerts and festivals in Australia, Germany, Italy, Sicily and the former Soviet Union. Soroka is the only musician to have won the top prize in each of the three most prestigious Ukrainian competitions. During the past season she has appeared as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in concertos by Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev and the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk.

Isabelle van Keulen
Isabelle van Keulen, born in The Netherlands in 1966, received her first violin lessons at six and was only eleven when she went to the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam. She came to prominence in 1984 by winning first prize in the Eurovision Young Musician of the Year Competition in Geneva, playing with the Suisse Romande Orchestra under Horst Stein. Since then she has appeared as soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, the Philharmonia, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Detroit Symphony and Minnesota Orchestras, among many others, under such conductors as Chailly, Conlon, de Waart, Dutoit and Marriner.

Rainer Moog belongs to the select group of viola-players who have achieved a successful solo career. A top prizewinner at the ARD Competition in Munich in 1971, he was in 1974 appointed solo violist of the Berlin Philharmonic by the late Herbert von Karajan, serving with distinction until 1978. Since then, Rainer Moog has been Professor of Viola at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. His many recordings as a soloist and chamber musician and participation in numerous international festivals have placed him at the forefront of the world's violists.

Young-Chang Cho
Young-Chang Cho began studying the cello at the age of eight in his native Korea, later moving to the United States to study at the Curtis Institute of Music. He was a top prizewinner at international competitions in Budapest, Geneva, Munich and Paris. From 1983 to 1987Young-ChangCho was solo cellist of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra and since 1988 he has been Professor of Cello at the Musikhochschule in Essen.

Alexander Ivashkin
The artistry of cellist Alexander Ivashkin is well known to audiences in more than twenty countries on four continents. He has established an international reputation both as an interpreter of the standard repertoire and as a proponent of contemporary music, especially that of Alfred Schnittke, having given the first performances and been the dedicatee of a number of his compositions. Ivashkin received his Doctorate Degree from the Moscow Gnesin Music Institute, and was subsequently appointed solo cellist of the Bolshoy Theatre Orchestra and artistic director of the Bolshoy Soloists Ensemble. He has recorded widely and his publications include several books and more than two hundred articles which have appeared around the world. He is currently a professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Joel Marangella
Joel Marangella, born in Washington, D.C., and educated in France, is a graduate of the conservatories in Orléans and Paris and holds a Master's Degree from the Juilliard School in New York. He has performed as a soloist all over Europe and America and has played as principal oboist in orchestras accompanying many of the world's most famous ballet companies such as the American Ballet Theatre, the Bolshoy Ballet and the Royal Ballet (Covent Garden) and was for years the principal oboist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. In 1989 he was one of the invited jurors at the International Oboe Competition in Toulon, France. Since 1981, Marangella has been principal oboist of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth.


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