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When the world stopped making sense to Martinu, who by 1955 had lived through two world wars, he went back to the very beginning, and to a creation story older than Genesis. The text only became known to a wide audience after the first world war, and only started to feature in art and music after the second. Unlike Genesis, with its cosmological opening, the Mesopotamian epic begins and continues on a human scale, and Martinu reflects this in his music, lending the narrative an almost operatic quality with set-piece solos alternating choral narrative and a speaking part. Simon Callow might seem an odd choice for the latter, but his sometimes fruity delivery is unexpectedly hardened here and sits well along the percussive rhythms of the choir. The Prague Philharmonic Choir know this material intimately and deliver it with relaxed authority. A 20th-century classic, given a definitive reading.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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