Martinů ‘Flowers’ in Mr Mašek’s Hands

Michal Mašek impresses the young audience with his performance of Martinů's works.

Michal Mašek ‘plays’ Martinů – and not only on the piano.

The Prague Spring is not only a Prague music festival resounding every year in May – educational music programmes are held monthly from Oct-April, under the name “The Flowering of Prague Spring” (Rozkvět Pražského Jara).

Each month a different topic – from solo performance to the work of a choir, from a musical epoch to one segment of a composer’s work – is presented especially for young listeners (15 – 26 years).

But even the older of us are welcome.

The January 22 “Flowering” programme, at the Czech Museum of Music, was devoted to the piano work of Bohuslav Martinů. The organizer and script-writer of the Flowering, Pavel Trojan Jr., this time invited Michal Mašek, an extraordinary young-generation pianist with a special affection for Martinů.

Opus Osm

Visitors look at Mr Mašek's items on Martinů

The evening was divided between music and the spoken word, starting with an introduction to the historical and cultural background of Martinů’s work, narration of his childhood and young years at Prague Conservatoire, and first stays in Paris. Then, Mr Mašek illustrated the composer’s friendship with the painter Jan Zrzavý, violinist Stanislav Novák, and pianist Rudolf Firkušný by playing the role of Martinů and reading from their correspondence.

More @ …“Martinů a Mašek,” piano recital and drawings (CD 19244); Martinů, Vzpomínka (book, VT 10255); Martinů, His Pupils, Friends and Contemporaries (book, VT 257); available at these call numbers at the Municipal Library (Central), along with many other Martinů CDs and music scores.

Mr Mašek performed Martinů’s piano pieces from the cycles Etudes and Polkas, Borová, Butterflies and Birds of Paradise, and Puppets, combined with short compositions by Debussy and Chopin. On one hand this showed the way Martinů worked with their influences.

On the other hand it put his work into the wide context of the world music tradition as Martinů himself wished – he wanted his compositions to be played together with other composers’.

Martinů the Artist
Mr Mašek’s programme is based on his longtime project of research, interpretation, and recording of Martinů’s music, starting with an affinity that began in Mr Mašek’s childhood.

“I remember that his music fascinated me from the very first pieces I played,” he says. “I did not have to find my way to him or to become mature enough for him, as the case was with my other favourite composers of the twentieth century.”

Opus Osm

Students, you're not alone in battling the piano.

In gathering information about Martinů, Mr Mašek found out that the composer (coming from a widely artistic family) also used to draw witty sketches and caricatures rendering his musical and non-musical experiences (for example, his witty fights with a piano).

A selection from more than two hundred drawings frames the Mašek-Trojan Martinů programme which has been presented at many schools and concert halls.

You can also see the art in a unique release by EMI Classics called simply Mašek/Martinů. It’s a book containing most of the composer’s drawings, creating a deluxe background to Mr Mašek’s CD comprising Martinů’s Etudes and Polkas, Butterflies and Birds of Paradise, Sonata for Piano, Album Leaf, Moderato from Borová, Black Bottom — and the world premiere recording of Victorious March of the R.U.R. Sports Club of Polička. — oo

The next programme in the “Flowering of Prague Spring” series will be Feb 25 at 6 pm the Church of St Salvator, Salvátorská 1, Prague 1.

— Lucie Rohanová

Photo Credits: Lucie Rohanová

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