Martinu: Complete Works For Violin And Piano
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MARTIn? Elegy . Concerto for Violin and Piano. Violin Sonatas: in C; in d; No. 1; No. 2; No. 3. Impromptu. 5 Short Pieces. Ariette. 7 Arabesques. Sonatina in G. Intermezzo. Rhythmic Etudes. 5 Madrigal Stanzas. Czech Rhapsody • Bohuslav Matoušek (vn); Petr Adamec (pn) • SUPRAPHON 3950 (4 CDs: 232:06)
If the Czech currency conversion program I used is correct—372 CZK = $18.52 USD—this is quite a buy direct from Supraphon’s Web site. Of course, by the time you add bankcard currency conversion rate charges and shipping, you can expect to pay considerably more. Nonetheless, the budget price reflects the fact that this four-CD boxed set is a repackaging of recordings made between September of 1996 and April of 1998, and that were once available singly.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I first fell under the spell of Bohuslav Martin?’s music as a high-school student when I came across a recording (on LP of course) of his Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani. I loved the bracing motoric rhythms and the acerbic harmonies. But not all of Martin?’s works, as I went on to discover, are in similar vein. He was a composer capable of a wide range of expression and emotion.
Martin? (1890–1959) was himself, not surprisingly, an accomplished violinist, which explains the large volume of works he produced throughout his career for both violin and piano and violin and orchestra. Violinist Bohuslav Matoušek has recorded the latter repertoire for Hyperion with Christopher Hogwood and the Czech Philharmonic. Celebrated Czech virtuoso Josef Suk has also explored some of Martin?’s work on record, but not as extensively as has Matoušek.
If you did not acquire these discs when they first appeared as singles, I encourage you to do so now in this enchanting and engaging set. Just listen to the Schubert-meets-Dvo?ák opening of the Concerto for Violin and Piano, and you will be hooked. It will play in your head for days. Of course this is early Martin? (1910), still very much under the influence of Dvo?ák and Smetana. One of the many wonderful things about this collection is that it presents these works, for the most part, in chronological order of composition, so you can trace Martin?’s development from beginning to end. Skipping forward 19 years to 1929 and the Violin Sonata No. 1, we still hear the native Czech folk influence, but it is now assimilated and reduced—perhaps dissected and distilled would be more accurate—into a starker, more severe, essential form of expression, much in the way that Bartók internalized and made essential Hungarian, Romanian, and Magyar folk elements.
Fourteen years on, we encounter the Five Madrigal Stanzas of 1943. Much of the angularity and stomping dance rhythms are now displaced by a purity and sweetness of the most touching lyricism imaginable. Needless to say, in the interest of space, I’ve left out a great deal of music that falls in between these three examples I’ve chosen to cite. But when it’s all said and done, Martin? remained at heart a deeply Czech and a deeply Romantic composer who often juiced and jazzed up his music with spiky rhythms and harmonic dissonance to make it sound a bit more modern. But strip that away, and what you have is a 20th-century Dvo?ák; and believe me, that is meant as the highest compliment.
I cannot imagine these works being played more beautifully or idiomatically than they are here by Matou?ek and Adamec. This is urgently recommended. But don’t blame me if your wife, husband, or significant other brains you with the cast iron frying pan when you can’t stop humming that tune from the Concerto for Violin and Piano.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Catalog Number: SU3950-2
Composer: Bohuslav Martinů
Performer: Bohuslav Matousek, Petr Adamec