have done some substantial justice to Martinů during
the decade leading up to the half centenary of his death.
There has been a new cycle of the symphonies (Valek) although
MusicWeb has not as yet been able to source a review copy.
The works for cello and orchestra/piano, the piano concertos
and the music for solo piano together with much of the
orchestral music has been issued by them. Other companies
including Naxos in Giorgio Koukl’s wonderful piano cycle
and Hyperion’s complete music for violin and orchestra
have done valuable work.
present 4 CD set reflects his complete output from before the Great War at the age of 19 in
his homeland to age 55. The Czech Rhapsody
to Kreisler at the end of the Second World War and was
written amid success in the USA. The box breaks new ground
for Supraphon being a stylish and durable hard card item
with a dumpy booklet and the discs each inserted in a plain
paper sleeve. It’s certainly a space saver when compared
with the company’s established approach of extravagant
multiple jewel boxes.
violin was Martinů’s instrument. It had been his passport
from Policka to Prague and the ranks of Talich’s Czech
Philharmonic. Bohuslav Matousek has convincing Martinů credentials
having been leader of the Stamic Quartet – who recorded
the complete Martinů string quartets (review review
and whose complete Martinů for violin and orchestra
has come out on Hyperion (vol.
) and partially on Supraphon
his first compositions is the 1909 Elegy
grandstanding melodrama. The 1910 Concerto
has nothing to do with his masterwork of
the 1950s: the Double Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra.
It is salon-smooth and undemanding. The Violin Sonata
in C major
is made of sturdier stuff – worsted to the
1910 work’s threadbare sacking. It is impressive and rises
to considerable majesty. Count it in the same company as
the Goossens, Dunhill and Ireland sonatas of that time.
It also chimes in with the mood of Martinů’s Czech
for baritone, chorus and orchestra. The D
carries the stigmata of Jazz and his studies
with Roussel. The Impromptu
has even greater ‘face’ – mercurial
and fading from chaffing to soliloquising, from lively
to thoughtful. The Violin Sonata No. 1
by the Five Short Pieces
- dedicated to Martinů biographer
Miloš Šafránek – an important friend during his Parisian
sojourn. These are not the most melodically juicy of pieces.
The 1930 Ariette
mixes singing melody with ragtime.
The Violin Sonata No. 2
is a compact Stravinskian
neo-classical piece. The sweetly ingratiating Seven
Arabesques - Rhythmic Etudes
are laid out for violin
or cello. The very short 1937 Sonatina
and the 1927 Impromptu
toward the Dvořák of the salon. The Rhythmic Etudes
were written for advanced amateurs. Martinů was enamoured
of the Madrigal. The Madrigal Stanzas
to Albert Einstein - himself an amateur violinist. These
are fully personal pieces. The Third Sonata
product of the years in the USA – is another very substantial
piece. It is tough, lyrical and nostalgic. Much the same
can be said of the last work - the
wistful Czech Rhapsody
. It sings with the aspirational
and exuberant loftiness we know from the Sinfonietta La
and the Fourth Symphony.
is not the first appearance of these treasurable recordings.
They were reviewed here as two separate 2CD sets in 2003