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Golden Age singers

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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Cello Concerto No. 1 (1930, 1939, 1955) [27.44]
Cello Concerto No. 2 (1945) [36.36]
Concertino for cello, wind instruments and percussion (1924) [13.35]
Michaela Fukačová (cello)

Odense SO/Peter Csaba
rec. May 1996
KONTRAPUNKT 32256 [78.17]


This disc comes into competition with two other discs: one from Supraphon; the other from Chandos. Only the Chandos is an exact match for content. Both Kontrapunkt and Chandos give both concertos and the quarter of an hour Concertino. The Concertino is a substantial work in its own right. The current Supraphon CD (SU 3543-2 031) provides just the two concertos.

The Supraphon was first issued in 1984 and my original CD version was manufactured by Denon in Japan under the number 33C37-7868. The soloist is Angelica May with the Czech PO conducted by Václav Neumann. This has been reissued in the UK via Koch International under a different number: SU 3543-2 031. The Chandos is on CHAN 9015 and the soloist is that champion of the neglected cello repertoire, Raphael Wallfisch. The orchestra is the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Jiří Bĕlohlávek.

Fukačová plays the part of the undemonstrative and confident singer in the first movement of the Second Concerto. Cellist and orchestra are bathed and haloed in a sunny rounded acoustic. This suits Martinů's sunny generous-souled music but it does leach away some of the countervailing drama and incident. This is less of a problem with the superbly detailed Supraphon recording made on 2 and 3 November 1981 using an early PCM digital setup. Angelica May, who in the intervening years, seems to have dipped completely from sight, finds in the music a variegated emotional contouring that is far less overt on the Kontrapunkt disc.

The Second Cello Concerto was begun in November 1944 in exile in the USA where his helter-skelter creativity was caught in the flood of writing symphonies and having the pick of US orchestras falling over each other to premiere them. A falling out with the intended soloist meant that Martinů never heard the work. As Geoffrey Thomason's superb notes point out, the Concerto was first heard in Czechoslovakia, the very country Martinů now disavowed because of its Socialist regime. The soloist at the premiere was Saša (or Alexandr) Večtomov a name familiar to collectors of Martinů LPs. Shortly after the premiere Večtomov went into Prague's Supraphon studios to record the piece. I had the LP for years ... but no longer. A pity because I would like to hear it again. I now understand that Panton have a 2 CD set of Večtomov in the Second Cello Concerto, all three cello sonatas and a set of variations for piano and cello.

The First Concerto is made to sound a bigger and more dynamic work than I had remembered and expected. I first heard it in lighter glabrous style on a Supraphon LP. Its big andante moderato is a lamentation - serious and reflective with some of the same atmosphere I thought. The Second Concerto is more soulful than dynamic - in fact Fukačová and the Odense Orchestra accentuate the reflective rather than the brilliance or emotional extremes.

Saša Večtomov also premiered the Concertino, a neo-classical work dating from the composer’s years in Paris. It is dry and bright and when animated seems to refer across to Petrushka. It also has its extremely touching moments (e.g. the piping andante passage at 7.43).

Obstinately natural balances with some roughnesses from the Odense Orchestra (who were superb in a Nielsen collection on Regis), poetically introspective interpretations by Fukačová, good background notes, generous playing time.
Rob Barnett

Obstinately natural balances, poetically introspective interpretations by Fukacova, good background notes, generous playing time. ... see Full Review

NOTE: There is a fourth CD of the two cello cocnertos. This is on the FBM or "Bohemia Music" label with Jiri Hosek (cello) and Petr Pololanik conducting the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra. This is understood to have been recorded in 1999. I am grateful to my friend Jacques Kleyn for this information. If anyopne at FBM reads this review will they please cotnact me via Dr Len Mullenger.
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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