Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Music for Cello & Piano
Cello Sonata No. 1 (1939) [17:17]
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1941) [18:08]
Cello Sonata No. 3 (1952) [19:09]
Variations on a Slovak Folk Theme (1959) [9:22]
Variations on a theme of Rossini (1942) [8:09]
Karine Georgian (cello)
Ian Munro (piano)
rec. The Warehouse, London 1998. DDD.
ALTO ALC 1057 [73:39]

Gripping recordings of Martinu’s complete works for cello and piano from the immensely gifted Russian cellist Karine Georgian. She was a Rostropovich student and amongst many honours gave the US premiere of the Khachaturian Rhapsody-Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, the composer conducting. In 1994 she gave the first performance in Australia of Britten’s Cello Symphony.

The three sonatas are concise three-movement structures. The First Sonata dates from around the time of the composer’s flight from Paris, ultimately to the USA. The wildness of the mood, the ominous storm clouds brought out by Australian pianist, Ian Munro - who has done so much for Arthur Benjamin and Malcolm Williamson - and the general feeling of hunted manic urgency recall the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani. The deeply rewarding Second Sonata has the dynamism and plangency (try the second movement) of the Fourth Symphony. The Third Sonata is a post-war work but is full of that hallmark meld of yearning and exuberance. The finale is truly exciting. Interesting to note the Beethovenian echoes in this work - paralleling similar voices in the Fifth Symphony. The two variation sets are just as passionately done and are very satisfying. The Slovak set dates from the year of the composer’s death while the Rossini sequence with its brazenly strutting finale belongs to his wartime output. Each set is about the length of a concert overture. The excellent notes are by Anthony Phillips. Those notes are studded with witty illustrations which enhance the package overall. There’s a fine informal photograph of a smiling and towsled Martinu on the back of the leaflet. The cover is an image of the place of Martinu’s childhood - the church tower of St James, Policka in the then Czechoslovakia.

This is a fine and closely-recorded collection with obvious virtues - even at prices higher than those asked by Regis.

Rob Barnett

Gripping recordings of Martinu’s complete works for cello and piano.