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
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.
Cello Concerto No. 1 [26.01]
Cello Concerto No. 2 [35.58]
Cello Concerto No. 1 [27.44]
Cello Concerto No. 2 [36.36]
Cello Concerto No. 1 [27.32]
Cello Concerto No. 2 [36.27]