ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Bohuslav Martinu - Concertos


BOHUSLAV MARTINU - VIOLIN CONCERTOS 1 AND 2 - RHAPSODY-CONCERTO FOR VIOLA - JOSEPH SUK (Violin) - VACLAV NEUMANN (Conductor) - Supraphon SU3967

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bohuslav Martinu's death in 1959. There have been and still are some notable new recordings and re-issues coming out to commemorate the event, but this one is one of the best, and also a re-issue of crucial importance because the violinist Josef Suk was the one to premiere the Violin Concerto No. 1 in 1973, under the baton of Georg Solti. Composed in 1933 but then mislaid for 40 years, it is a work bustling with rhythmic energy, lyricism and a mature grasp of the medium. The violinist Samuel Dushkin, for whom this work was written, kept demanding that technical modifications be made to showcase his virtuosity. However, he never had the chance to perform it because the composer suddenly left for the United States and mislaid the score in the process. This important concerto has two outer movements full of spiky harmonics similar to Bartok and a beautiful central slow movement where the violin sings high above the orchestral fabric below.

The Concerto No. 2 was written ten years later for the Russian violinist Mischa Elman. It is a much darker and emotional work, in many aspects resembling a symphony. The Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra which rounds out this fine CD was composed in 1952, and displays an even greater maturiy and skill, and showcases the instrument's dark tone and lyrical nature perfectly.

What really makes these performances stand out is that both Josef Suk and Václav Neumann are champions of Czech music and master interpreters of the music of Bohuslav Martinu. They bring to the score a shared heritage and instinctive understanding of what lies behind the notes. If you are unfamiliar with this composer, this is a good entry point. If you are versed in this music, this recording deserves a place in your collection.

Jean-Yves Duperron