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Bohuslav MARTINU (1890-1959)
The Three Cello Sonatas

Cello Sonata No. 1 (1939) [18.29]
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1941) [21.58]
Cello Sonata No. 3 (1952) [20.33]
Jirí Hanousek (cello)

Paul Kaspar (piano)
rec. 26 Oct, 4-5 Nov 1992, Meistersingerhalle, Nürnberg. DDD
co-production with Bavarian Radio
CENTAUR CRC 2207 [60.57]

Martinu's three cello sonatas span the years from the flight from Paris to arrival in the U.S.A. to the return to old Europe - though he was never to see his homeland again. They are works of his rising and risen maturity.

The Parisian-based First Sonata partakes of some of the drama of the contemporaneous Double Concerto. It does not have quite the generosity of heart of the symphonies nor the full-on concentrated intensity of the Double Concerto (try Sejna's historic recording on Supraphon). The hesitancy of the middle movement throws into relief the confident aggression of the outer movements. Only two years later Martinu wrote his Second Sonata. It was completed in Jamaica in the last two months of 1941 with America now in the very war that Martinů had fled two years ago. The second movement is sometimes doom-laden in much the same way as parts of the second and third symphonies. The allegro commodo already bears resemblances to his optimistic Fourth Symphony though without quite the same luminosity and liberation taking wing. The Third Sonata, though written back in Europe, shows the confident 'sunrise' that arose from his years in the U.S.A. The last movement is jazzily syncopated without the desiccation of the Paris years. It finds time for the plangent singing lyricism that is such a trademark of this composer.

Both instrumentalists are fully engaged with the spirit of these precious sonatas. I note that Centaur used admirably adroit American soloists for their other two Martinů chamber discs including Fredell Lack for the violin sonatas. This is the only one of the three to feature a Czech player. Centaur's presentation is good with English only notes. The only slight criticism is the rather dry acoustic; a more lively result would have added splendour to the tone of Hanousek's playing.

Rob Barnett



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