Encore: A sad loss for the Czech musical scene

Petr Eben

In this edition of Encore we mourn the loss of two major figures on the Czech classical musical scene, and we enjoy a Smetana Trio recording of Martinu, that reminds us that not everything that came out of the 1950s was atonal and dissonant.

The Czech musical scene mourns two major figures

In a recent edition of Encore we featured some delightful pieces for children’s choir by the contemporary composer Petr Eben. Sadly, he died on 24th October, succumbing to a long illness at the age of 78.

Petr Eben made a significant contribution to many musical genres, but the organ was his favourite instrument. He once said in an interview that he loved it in particular because he had never studied it officially. As a result it was the instrument at which he felt freest, having fun improvising and experimenting, without being pressed into achieving some kind of perfection

Sadly the Czech musical community recently lost another valuable member, the cellist Vladimir Leixner of the Stamic Quartet. Not only was he a superb player, but also an extremely capable organizer. He ran a concert agency which brought many fine musicians to Prague and which promoted the careers of young artists, one of whom, the pianist Ivo Kahanek, we recently featured on this programme.

The idiosyncratic Bohuslav Martinu

It has been a while since we featured Bohuslav Martinu on Encore, so I would like to mention an excellent recording of his Piano trio no. 2 in D minor. It is on a CD that we have featured before, performed by the Smetana Trio and recently released by Supraphon. The work was composed in 1950, and from the date you might expect something extremely dissonant or atonal. But Martinu always went his own way – we should remember that as a student he was thrown out of the Prague Conservatory for “incorrigible negligence”. He seemed to learn mostly on his own, by writing and writing, perhaps almost obsessively. Nothing seemed to slow him down – not years of severe poverty, nor even the upheaval of the Second World War when he was made persona non grata by the Nazis in Paris and had to live for months more or less camping out wherever he could until he got papers to get himself and his wife to America.

CDs reviewed in this programme are provided by Siroky Dvur