- Field Mass by Bohuslav Martinů, and: Concerto da camera by Bohuslav Martinů
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In the official website of the classical music branch of the Czech Radio (Český rozhlas D-dur), Aleš Bř situates Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1958) in the pantheon of Czech composers and musical heroes, and as the fourth star in the bright constellation formed by Smetana, Dvořák, and Janáč -ilarly, Miloš Šafranek, still one of the most important and influential biographers of Martinů, did not skimp on words to locate him among the more significant composers of the twentieth century, in spite of the composer's apparent lack of originality. For Šafranek, deceptive novelty, which was so readily available for many reasons after the Second World War, does not equal musical greatness, as it was evident, according to him, in the artistic outputs of Bach and Mozart, whose enormity became apparent only after several generations.
As a composer, Martinů -haustible. He managed to integrate recognisable elements of Czech folk music into a modern, Neoclassical syntax that displays precision, as well as elegant and monotonous transparency. Drawing from his fascination for and understanding of the polyphony of the English madrigalists, and his use of the rhythmic push of the Baroque concerto grosso, Martinů's eclectic materials, as noted by Jan Smaczny, "forged a consistent, pungent musical style which invigorated and affirmed tonality" (liner notes of Martinů: Double concerto. Charles Mackerras, Brno State Philharmonic ALC 1267, , CD). In fact, Martinů never abandoned tonality and remained loyal to his musical convictions and methods of composition. His adherence to tonality has been balanced with his particular use of dissonance, which colors his music in an always highly recognizable and personal fashion.
Bärenreiter-Verlag is currently in the process of publishing The Bohuslav Martinů Complete Edition. This colossal enterprise promises to deal with the titanic editorial complexity of analysing Martinů's mammoth compositional output, whose autographs, deficient first editions (many of them containing unauthorized editorial changes), and manuscript copies are scattered throughout many publishers in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, France, England, and the United States. This daunting task, however, is being completed with utmost care. As a result, a series of elegant volumes is already available. Each volume contains extensive notes and well-researched information in the form of forewords and critical commentaries in English and Czech, describing the complex editorial process as well as the circumstances surrounding the creation of the works. Another essential feature of the Edition is the inclusion of facsimiles which successfully convey the difficulties of decoding Martinů handwriting. The present review is concerned with two volumes of The Bohuslav Martinů Complete Edition. The first one features the composer's Field Mass, H 279 and The Spectre's Bride, H 214 I A. The second volume contains Concerto da camera, H 285 and Rhapsody-Concerto, H 337. The Edition uses catalog numbers prepared and first published by the Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich in 1968.
The Field Mass, which was composed to convey Martinů's intense grief, love, and anxiety for his beloved Bohemia and its uncertain future under Nazi occupation, did not hit the stage until after the end of the Second World War. The piece was completed in 1939 in Paris where the composer was living as an exiled and avid observer of the new musical and artistic trends. The Field Mass was the last piece he completed in Paris before the Wehrmacht entered the city. As per the very informative and engaging critical comments provided [End Page 645] by Paul Wingfield, who skillfully edited the score, Martinů's...