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Hyperion Records

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Silver Birches by Dorothée Martin du Mesnil (b1959)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67672
Recording details: April 2004
Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Produced by Zdenek Zahradník
Engineered by Tomáš Zikmund
Release date: February 2008
Total duration: 10 minutes 28 seconds

'With its fresh invention and lively demeanour, [Concerto da camera] remains one of his more popular concertos although it has never received its due on disc. This newcomer sets that omission straight, however, crisply performed and immaculately recorded. The same applies to its companion pieces … strongly recommended' (Gramophone)

'Christopher Hogwood and Bohuslav Matoušek are entirely at home with this repertoire: there is a wealth of interpretative details, but what impresses most is the bigger picture and strong sense of where Martinů is going … in this clear recording there is a huge amount to enjoy' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The Concerto da Camera is an inventive and satisfying score in Martinů's Concerto Grosso mode with an appealing variation first movement radiating vitality … Christopher Hogwood has developed into an outstanding Martinů interpreter and the performances are first-class' (International Record Review)

'Matoušek enjoyes a distinctly concertante approach to the Concerto da camera, only at the appropriate moments stepping into the soloist's role … Matoušek revels in the technical demands of the Czech Rhapsody and caresses its long, flowing melodies with considerable beauty. Karel Košárek is the excellent pianist, and the Czech Philharmonic is well versed in Martinů's personalised tonal qualities. There's immaculately balanced sound with transparency throughout the orchestra' (The Strad)

'Martinů is a terminally underrated figure; these blistering performances will hopefully provide a tipping-point of recognition' (Classic FM Magazine)

'This disc is superb in every aspect from performance to recording quality, and will really force the listener to re-evaluate Martinů’s place among composers. Very highly recommended' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'Like the first issue, his disc is an absolute delight from start to finish, and performances are utterly convincing. Hogwood keeps the music flowing naturally and everything here is a testimony to Martinů's fertile inventiveness. Sound and presentation are of a consistently fine quality' (Classical.net)

Czech Rhapsody, H307a
composer
5-19 July 1945, Cape Cod, South Orleans, Massachusetts; violin & piano; commissioned by and dedicated to Fritz Kreisler
arranger
arranged for violin and orchestra after Martinu's unfulfilled intentions; this version first performed in Prague in December 2001

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
During the 1940s, Martinu composed at least one new work for the violin every year: the Concerto da camera of 1941 was followed in 1942 by the Madrigal Sonata for flute, violin and piano, and a year later by the Violin Concerto No 2. The Czech Rhapsody H307A was written at Cape Cod, South Orleans, Massachusetts, from 5 to 19 July 1945. In a letter from 10 July Martinu remarks to Miloš Šafránek: ‘… it is a form I thought I would no longer write in, and I am finding it rather difficult.’ This virtuosic composition, originally for violin and piano, was commissioned by the celebrated violinist Fritz Kreisler and is dedicated to him. As far as we know Kreisler never performed the piece. In fact it is difficult to imagine Kreisler, who by that time had reached the age of seventy, reckoning with the exceptionally difficult technical demands of this piece, which include double stops at the interval of a tenth as well as rapid runs and large intervallic leaps. The central key of the Czech Rhapsody is B flat major, which appears in Martinu’s later works as a symbol of hope and happiness, which would fit into the atmosphere of the end of World War 2. It should be noted that another composition by Martinu also bears the title Czech Rhapsody: a cantata for baritone, chorus, orchestra and organ dating from 1918, also composed in the throes of a world war, dedicated to the Czech writer Alois Jirásek.

Martinu had originally intended to write this work for violin with orchestral accompaniment. He wrote to his friend Frank Rybka (on 24 June 1945): ‘For Kreisler I’ve written a Czech Rhapsody, for the time being with piano.’ To a certain extent, then, the existing piano part was really conceived as a piano reduction, which Martinu then intended to orchestrate. With this in mind, the Martinu Foundation commissioned the composer Jirí Teml to orchestrate the work, which he did with the help of the violinist Ivan Štraus. Teml’s point of reference for the orchestration was the stylistically similar Rhapsody-concerto for viola and orchestra, H337, composed in the spring of 1952. The details of the premier of the original version for violin and piano have not yet been tracked down; the orchestral version here was heard for the first time at the Martinu Festival in Prague in December 2001.

from notes by Aleš Brezina © 2008

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