Encore: The appeal of the bell tower


In Encore we look at two recordings said to be inspired by church towers. It is well known that Bohuslav Martinu grew up in a room at the top of the bell tower in the little town of Policka, but we will also be looking at a living composer, who has found an "oasis of peace" at the top of a Baroque spire in Prague.

A contemporary composer with Baroque inspiration

Radek Rejsek's 'Eight Windows of the Loreto Spire' is a beguiling and atmospheric contemporary work that refers to the exquisite late Baroque bell tower of the Loreto Shrine, dating from the late 17th century. Its carillon is still very much played today, and Mr Rejsek himself is one of the main carilloneurs. He plays a short concert almost every week on the bells, high up in the tower, and also performs on the organ there as well.

In the liner notes for the CD 'Pritomnost V' which features the recording, he writes: 'The spire... is for me a sanctuary and oasis of peace, where I can escape from the daily rush and from the less pleasant things that the world below sometimes brings... Each of the eight windows overlooks an important place, which I have taken as an extra-musical subject for each of my eight miniatures.'

To take an example: from the West Window you see the Cernin Palace, which inspires the second piece, and the view of Petrin, the wooded hillside park on the city's left bank, is the inspiration for the fifth. The performers here are Katerina Englichova on the harp and Jana Neubauerova on flute.

Martinu and the butterflies of Policka

We turn now to another composer whose work was influenced by a bell tower, Bohuslav Martinu, who was born at the top of such a tower in the small Moravian town of Policka, where his father, a cobbler, was also fire warden. The room where he grew up is now a museum, and a fascinating place to visit.

It was probably here that Martinu composed his pieces called 'Butterflies and Birds of Paradise' over Christmas 1920, when he was finishing up a teaching stint there. These pieces are not typical Martinu. They are early works in which he consciously and successfully copied the style of his idol, Claude Debussy. And they are really lovely, and not so well known. You can hear them on a CD performed by Paul Kaspar, a Czech living in Germany. This is a new recording, which is the second installment in Mr. Kaspar's planned recording of the complete piano works of Martinu, released on the Tudor label. The disk contains all three books of Martinu's Etudes and Polkas, and the set of 'Borová' dances in addition to Butterflies and Birds of Paradise.

The etudes and polkas were written a good twenty-five years later - at Cape Cod in the US incidentally - and they are very different, being from a time when Martinu most certainly had found a distinctive voice, and they are also of great beauty.

CDs reviewed in this programme are provided by Siroky Dvur