Martinu: Who is the Most Powerful in the World

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LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Who is the Most Powerful in the World
PERFORMER: Prague SO/JirŠí BeŠlohlávek
Martinu’s large output for the musical stage includes twelve surviving ballets. Who is the Most Powerful in the World, the tale of a mighty mouse who eventually wins the hand of his beloved, dates from the early Twenties. This wonderfully varied score is a conspectus of the music that caught Martinu’s attention before his style crystallised in Paris later in the decade. Among the 18, mainly short movements of the ballet there is a homage to the fourth movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony in the Serenade, and the waltz movement manages to parody both Stravinsky and Richard Strauss.


Among the send-ups there is a splendid dig at contemporary dance habits in the Shimmy-foxtrot, the most frequently heard music from the ballet. The musical images have a vividness that approaches Prokofiev in Peter and the Wolf – no one, for instance, will miss the squeaking of the mice! In fact, this ballet with its myriad colours and infectious humour would make a splendid introduction to classical music for children while cheering many a careworn adult. BeŠlohlávek’s performance makes the most of the overt theatricality of the piece and is splendidly recorded. Jan Smaczny