Martinu: Les larmes du couteau; The Voice of the Forest

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Les larmes du couteau; The Voice of the Forest
PERFORMER: Hana Jonášová, Lenka Smídová, Roman Janál, Helena Kaupová, Jaroslav Brezina, Vladimír Okénko; Chamber Choir, Prague Philharmonia/Jirí Belohlávek
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3386-2
Martinu was one of the great operatic experimenters of the 20th century. Film, radio and television were all grist to his mill when broadening the scope of conventional opera, but even for this great musical-theatrical experimenter, Les larmes du couteau is peculiar. Based on a Dadaist play, it owes something to Stravinsky, and even more to jazz. The unlikely plot, turning on the heroine’s desire for a hanged man, proved too much for the jury of the Baden-Baden Festival of 1928 for which it was intended –a pity since for all its oddity, its theatrical fluency, excellently realised by the performers here who move easily between the singing and speech in the score, is genuinely infectious.

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The Voice of the Forest (1935), the first of Martinu’s two radio operas, shows his style had lost the hard modernist edge of his Twenties music. Those who know the opera-ballet Spalicek will instantly recognise its open-hearted, folk-inflected lyricism in the work. Although the story is inclined to the surreal, the immediacy of its telling is persuasively vivid. Belohlávek directs these pioneering first recordings with true dramatic conviction adding immeasurably to our understanding and enjoyment of Martinu. Jan Smaczny