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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Cello Concerto No. 1 (1930, 1939, 1955) [26.01]
Cello Concerto No. 2 (1945) [35.58]
Concertino for cello, wind instruments and percussion (1924) [13.52]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Czech PO/Jiří Bĕlohlávek

rec. Spanish Hall, Prague Castle, 24-28 June 1991, DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 9015 [76.05]

In the 1990s Chandos's association with the Czech PO and Jiří Bĕlohlávek bore promising fruit but not a whole tree's worth. As it is we can be delighted with Bĕlohlávek’s Martinů symphonies 1, 4 and 6 as well as this generous and logically arranged disc of the two cello concertos and the neo-classical Concertino. Will we ever see the cycle completed, I wonder? Of course Chandos have the Bryden Thomson six but this presence is unlikely to be an obstacle to a company of Chandos's determination. The Second Concerto is a product of the composer’s high-tide late maturity and will be well known to longtime Martinů fans from the 1960s Saša Večtomov Supraphon LP. The First Concerto, however it may have sounded when first written in 1930 (with prominent part for solo piano) and then after first revision in 1939, by 1955 had been wrought with many touches familiar from the 1940s onwards.

The Concertino sounds well in the extremely sonorous acoustic of Prague Castle rather than the Rudolphinum. Its neo-classical tongue-poking takes on a warmer tone. Perhaps some will find that inimical to the work's stripped-to-essentials attitude. It appealed strongly to me. Listen to the piccolo's rudely blown fanfares at 7.49. This time I warmed to the work more than I had to any previous version.

In the two numbered Cello Concertos Bĕlohlávek lacks the extreme rhythmic bite and chatter of Neumann on Supraphon but only by a hair's breadth. There are compensating privileges to be found in the deep ample mahogany sound of Wallfisch's cello. In fact the Chandos is a clear winner when matched up against the Kontrapunkt (Fukačová) and the Supraphon (May). The Danish version is an exact match for coupling but lacks the bite and affluence of the Chandos. The Supraphon has plenty of bite but the glare of the early digital recording (1981) does not help its case. It also lacks the Concertino - a work worth having.

The good notes are by a regular for several companies including Sony: Graham Melville-Mason.

The Chandos disc is first choice for the Martinů Cello Concertos.


Rob Barnett

Wallfisch (Chandos)

Cello Concerto No. 1 [26.01]
Cello Concerto No. 2 [35.58]
Concertino [13.52]
Fukačová (Kontrapunkt)

Cello Concerto No. 1 [27.44]
Cello Concerto No. 2 [36.36]
Concertino [13.35]
May (Supraphon)

Cello Concerto No. 1 [27.32]
Cello Concerto No. 2 [36.27]

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