This is the weekend for Greek Passion

Basia Jaworski makes a seasonal case for Bohuslav Martinu’s final masterpiece.

The subject: refugees, corruption, religious fanaticism, humanism and the search for identification was, is and will always remain topical. Bitter, tragic, but also beautiful and very humane. Martinů himself wrote the libretto for it, based on the novel ‘Ο Χριστός ξανασταυρώνεται’ (Christ was crucified again) by Nikos Kazantzakis. The book (and the opera) tells a story of the survivors of a Turkish massacre who seek shelter in a Greek village where the local population is preparing for their annual ‘Passion performances’….

Read (and listen) here.

And here’s an account of my personal history with Martinu.

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  • Beautiful piece in the Evening Standard, sir – thank you! Martinu is even more neglected in the US. (Though my wife does perform Kapralova from time to time.)

  • The various confessions of the Eastern Rite (Constantinople) – including the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, and others – will be celebrating Easter tomorrow (28 April).

  • Perhaps you meant “personal history with Martinu’s music”? It wouldn’t be surprising if you claimed to have been bosom buddies with him, but it would be especially peculiar.

  • HB
    Kazantzakis’s novel may be found in English translation either under the name “Christ Recrucified” or “The Greek Passion”. It is an extraordinarily powerful work.

    • That is a beautiful work, a very personal interpretation of ‘classical’, without being ‘neo’.

  • The article refers to a Martinu 4-note signature theme. What is it? I know he used a 4-note motif in the 6th symphony that is the same motif used in Dvorak’s requiem.

    Here’s my martinu top 10:

    1. Double concerto for strings piano and tympani
    2. Symphony #6
    3. First Cello Sonata
    4. First Piano Quartet
    5. Symphony #3
    6. Epic of Gilgamesh
    7. Les Fresques
    8. Piano Concerto #4 (incantations)
    9. Symphony #4
    10. String Quartet #5

  • I’ve made a few edits, and changed the setting to the USA…

    The dangers of ossifying the classical canon in the name of resisting an “assault on heritage” should not be underestimated. My local American orchestra does not have a future if it relies on routine, ritualistic performances of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. An augmentation
    of the repertoire with female comtemporaries or composers with non-European roots
    will help young Americans interested in classical music to avoid walling themselves off from their multicultural future and avoid the destruction of public interest, empty concert halls and eventually even their closure. And the possibility of concert halls that are not inclusive is unthinkable in the America of the future. The goal is not to rewrite or destroy the past, but to avoid supremacist ideas that are part of its
    unmistakable dark side. In this way the dark side can be discussed even-handedly.
    At the same time, it is cynical and destructive to deny that Western musical history
    and other musical traditions have brough forth incredible wealth. Let us enjoy these
    opportunities to enchance our experience fully and without feelings of guilt and resentment.

    • Extension and variation of the classical repertoire is something different from its replacement.

  • Norman this is great! I had just discovered Martinu myself in the last year and a half or so and in turn, discovered this rarely performed but Magnum Opus Opera! I had always been familiar with his name, but just never stopped and listened to his Music, always listening to other Czech composers first. Reading your article put well into words how Martinu’s music strikes me but I, unlike you, just couldn’t quite put it into words. His music IS more subtle and it just seemed that he MUST have shunned the spotlight personally or we as an audience would be much more familiar with his works. The “FRESCOES” piece was a fair introduction to his Music and his first Symphony, which I enjoyed last night! His Symphonies are not so lengthy that they are hard to sit through. Maestro Belohlavek has indeed been releasing his works with stellar sound on the Chandos label The late great “Honorary Czech” Sir Charles Mackerras recorded much of his repertoire on the Czech Supraphone label. Thank You Norman. I had literally just been wondering about his background yesterday. The Greek Passion is worthy of more performances.

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