Encore: A taste of spring and a cage for two nightingales

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Today we bring you no less than two father-and-daughter musical teams, with music by Czech composers Jan Novak, Lubos Sluka and Jaroslav Ridky, as well as an excellent recent Martinu recording, featuring the composer's two piano quintets and his Sonata for two violins.

Spring Dances from a non-person

True to the time of year we start with some music for spring. Although it has a timeless sound it dates from as recently as in 1977. The Choreae Vernales or Spring Dances were written by Jan Novak for his daughter, Clara Novakova, an accomplished flutist. She can be heard, playing the work together with pianist Jean-Bernard Marie on a CD released on the LH Promotions label.

Jan Novak should not be confused with the better known Czech composer, Vitezslav Novak, but he too deserves attention, as he was a very fine composer and left a great deal of very good music. He lived from 1921 until 1984.

One reason he is not so well known here is that he went into exile in the late 1960s after repeated clashes with the regime, living first in Denmark and then in Italy. And of course, anyone who emigrated, as Novak did, instantly became a non-person here.

He studied with Martinu in 1947 and 1948, thanks to a grant from the Jaroslav Jezek Foundation. Martinu was a strong influence and the two men became fast friends, continuing their correspondence until Martinu's death in 1959.

This is an exceptionally fine CD, with a wonderful selection of pieces, although the title is a little uninspired - '20th Century Czech Music for Flute' - not really hinting at the richness, variety and beauty of the music. Clara Novakova's playing is superb throughout, as is the pianist's, Jean-Bernard Marie.

Bohuslav Martinu emerging from the mists

Now let's move on to music by Jan Novak's teacher, Bohuslav Martinu. We have a new CD, on the Naxos label, with both of Martinu's piano quintets as well as the sonata for two violins and piano, as performed by the Martinu Quartet and pianist Karel Kosarek.

The opening of the second piano quintet, which was written in 1944 when Martinu was living in exile in New York, is wonderful. The piece seems to start in the mists, very mysteriously and gradually coalesces into a strongly rhythmic theme. The second movement, Adagio, is a real jewel too

Music in celebration of a great Czech 20th century composer

We have a recording of a slightly unusual combination of instruments, two cellos and piano, with music by another teacher and pupil pair, Lubos Sluka and his teacher Jaroslav Ridky.

Most of the pieces here are by Sluka, who was born in 1928 and is, happily, still very much with us. They include a set of pieces called 'In Memory of Jaroslav Jezek'.

As many of our listeners know, in addition to concert music, the Czech 20th century composer Jaroslav Jezek composed music for the extremely popular interwar 'Liberated Theatre' of the comic actors Voskovec and Werich. And given that the titles are things like 'Charleston' and 'Shimmy' and 'Blues', it is clear that Sluka was inspired by the pieces Jezek wrote in the popular vein. The CD features another father-daughter team, cellist Jiri Hosek and his daughter Dominika Hoskova, with pianist Ludek Sabaka.

The CD is entitled 'A Cage for Two Nightingales' on the Music Vars label.


CDs reviewed in this programme are provided by Siroky Dvur