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CD Review

Bohuslav Martinů

Complete Works for Violin & Orchestra, Volume 3

  • Suite concertante for Violin & Orchestra (1st ver.) H276
  • Suite concertante for Violin & Orchestra (2nd ver.) H276A
  • Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola & Orchestra, H337
Bohuslav Matoušek, violin/viola
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Christopher Hogwood
Hyperion CDA67673 69m DDD
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This third and final instalment in Hyperion's mini-cycle dedicated to Martinů's oeuvre for violin and orchestra includes two very rare works, the Suite concertante in its two versions and the established Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra.

The first version of the Suite Concertante was written between 1938 and 1939, but the work encountered a number of unforeseen obstacles and was only premièred in May 2000 after considerable research.

The second version which is radically different fared slightly better. Composed in 1943/44, the work was first heard in December 1945 but had to wait till November 1999 to make its second bow.

The Rhapsody Concerto was written in just over four weeks in March and April 1952 and marks Martinů's stylistic development towards neo-Romanticism. First performed in February 1953, it has gained a strong foothold in the concert hall, and is one of the composer's most popular concertos.

All three pieces, although extremely dissimilar, encompass Martinů's love of life and country but some of the passages in the Suites are reminiscent of the adversity and disappointments he had to struggle against. This is music of extreme beauty but also of unquestionable sincerity, expertly crafted and ingeniously orchestrated.

Matoušek proves to be a peerless interpreter of these works, and his approach has not only a disciplined finesse but a rhythmic vigour that makes the notes leap out of their pages. Hogwood keeps things moving briskly and his support is consistently sympathetic and unobtrusive. This is a fine conclusion to an important Martinů series.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech