Five Madrigal Stanzas

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite composer: Bohuslav Martinu. All week my daughter and I have been listening to his Five Madrigal Stanzas for Violin and Piano and man are they delicious!

We’ve been listening to this piece in preparation for my daughter learning to play it. It’s not in the Suzuki repertoire — there’s hardly anything written later than 1800, let alone in the twentieth century — and I’m so excited that she’ll finally get to play a contemporary piece. Although we have strayed outside the Suzuki canon before, this is also the first piece she’ll have learned that’s not published in a student edition. There are a few bowing marks in the music, but not one single fingering. Yikes!

I can’t help her with the fingerings, but I’m really good at gathering background info. And as I started listening to this piece I wondered what makes it a madrigal? In fact, what is a madrigal? I thought madrigals were, like, hymns. Not pieces for violin & piano. So I looked it up and I learned something interesting. Madrigals were medieval secular songs for small three- or four-part choirs and they were often “through-composed.” Through-composed, I learned, means having multiple stanzas with each stanza having a different melody. One of the examples they gave is the Beatles song “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”

So I’m thinking about these five madrigal stanzas, these five short pieces, and realizing that (I assume) they are meant to be stanzas of a single song, not separate pieces, even though they are all very different from each other. How cool is that? And if that’s not cool enough, know also that Martinu dedicated the work to Albert Einstein.

Here’s the first “stanza.”

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4 Comments

  1. I always love your music posts and really happy to see you back on! :)

    Reply
  2. Thanks dude! It’s good to be back… I really mean it this time… and I look forward to catching up on your blog. I’m slowly but surely making it through my subscriptions.

    Reply
  3. Glad to see you posting on music again. Your breadth of knowledge on classical music is so much broader than mine, I learn something every time. I’d never heard of Bohuslav Martinu or his Five Madrigal Stanzas for Violin and Piano but I listened to the First Stanza. Very nice … I will have to find more. Isn’t it wonderful what we can find on the web? Anyway, good to see you posting again.

    Reply
  4. Thanks, Bud! Glad you liked it! The link in the first paragraph above is to an mp3 download that has all five, and I think it’s actually the same recording as what’s in the video.

    Reply

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