Recorded at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, 17-19 December 2016 (Martinů – live) and on 24 August 2017 (Novák). Bohuslav Martinů and Jan Novák shared similar fates – both of them left their country and wandered around the world. The two composers also had a relationship as a teacher and pupil. Novák referred to his studies with Martinů in New York in 1947 as having had a major impact on his development as a music creator and human. Martinů’s influence is palpable in Novák’s Philharmonic Dances (Choreae Philharmonicae, 1956), three symphonic fantasies that provide wide scope for showcasing the virtuosity of both the soloists and the groups of instruments. The present recording of the work (the very first made in a studio) helps us to pay off our great debt to Novák, an artist who gave preference to being a “free exile” against having to breathe the oppressive air in his homeland, reigned over by a dictatorial regime.
The English veteran’s album tally reaches 20 with this release, and appropriately it’s one of his finest, an exquisitely played distillation of standards from both sides of the Atlantic, with a brace of originals for ballast. Well-worn favourites like Rufford Park Poachers and Blues Run the Game are presented in polished form, with Simpson’s virtuoso guitar and banjo tailored and layered by producer Andy Bell, plus classy guest accompaniments. Highlights include a cavernous version of Emily Portman’s Bones and Feathers, while Maps is a glance back at a 1950s childhood and Ridgeway evokes England’s ancient past. A master musician on top of his game.
The Roberta Martin Singers were an African-American gospel group based in the United States. The group was founded in 1933 by Roberta Martin, who in that same year had just become acquainted with gospels music, which was different from the traditional spirituals which were popular at the time. Theodore Frye and Thomas A. Dorsey were directing a junior choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, and asked Martin to serve as the accompanist. From this junior choir, Martin selected six young men at random to form a group, Eugene Smith, Norsalus McKissick, Robert Anderson, Willie Webb, James Lawrence, and W.C. Herman. This group was named the Martin and Frye Singers, and in 1936, the group adopted the name of The Roberta Martin Singers. The Roberta Martin Singers (RMS) contained no traditional bass. For a brief period of time, the group was known as the Martin and Martin Singers, when Sallie Martin joined Roberta's group.