Martinů Madrigals, H380; Czech Madrigals, H278; Five Czech Madrigals, H321; Primrose; Three Sacred Songs; Four Marian Songs
Jakub Fišer (violin), Karel Kosarek (piano); Martinů Voices/Lukáš Vasilek
Supraphon SU 4237-2 59:37 mins
Every new Martinů release from Supraphon – and they are now coming thick and fast, praise be – brings with it a deep spirit of delight. This choral bouquet may not aim as high as the superb set of folk cantatas (reviewed March 2017), but it still works well as a sequence. Not only does Martinů treat the same motifs – an aching head from rejection in love, the precocity of the baby Jesus, waiting for a lover – differently whenever there are text-echoes across the 30-year span; there is also the contrast of a cappella works with Primrose for female voices, violin and piano and the Three Sacred Songs of 1951 for female voices and violin. Those went most directly to my heart, for the radiant setting of their naively beautiful religious texts, above all the newly ascended Christ’s consolation to his mother left on earth (the three verses have similar music, but not always identically ordered).
The corresponding number about the newborn Christ’s fishing for his mother’s breakfast is part of the equally light-of-touch set composed alongside the 1934 opera The Miracles of Mary. Once past the surprises of rhythm and harmony in the first track, ‘On the Banks of the Danube’, the 16 madrigals can dip in inspiration – Martinů wasn’t at all sure about publishing the 1939 group (H278) – but the pitch-perfect singing of Lukáš Vasilek’s Martinů Voices is always companionable, and I imagine there must be a special pleasure for native Czech speakers. But this is a treasury for everyone.