Martinu: Symphony #1, What Men Live By

Album cover art for upc 099925423322
Label: SUPRAPHON
Catalog: SU4233-2
Format: CD

CZECH PHILHARMONIC BELOHLAVEK

Jirí Belohlávek (1946–2017) was an important worldwide ambassador of Bohuslav Martinu’s music. For the Supraphon label alone he recorded nearly forty of Martinu’s symphonic compositions, concertos, and stage works, and many of these were world premiere recordings. Despite large-scale plans, this recording also represents both the highpoint and the conclusion of Belohlávek’s noteworthy discography of Martinu’s works. The premiere recording of the opera-pastoral What Men Live By was made from three concert performances in December 2014. Martinu composed it to his own libretto in America at the turn of 1951–52, and he had a clear idea concerning its performance: “It must not be played ‘pathetically’, but joyfully... The text strongly tempts one to come up with a very serious, ‘deep’ conception, but that is not what I had in mind. To me, it is a rather joyful work, and what the listener must feel is not some sort of religious moral (lesson), but instead joy. The moral is in fact in the joy.” This recording of the Symphony No. 1 was made in January 2016, and it joins the earlier releases of Symphonies Nos. 3–6. It was part of a planned but unfortunately unfinished complete set of Martinu’s late orchestral works. Belohlávek’s tenure with the Czech Philharmonic during the last five years of his life was a very happy time for both parties, and it led to the development of new qualities in the orchestra’s sound. This recording shall endure as living proof of what was a very special constellation of humanity and artistry.

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