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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55185
Recording details: January 1988
All Saints, Petersham, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: March 1989
Total duration: 18 minutes 27 seconds

'This fascinating record is another tribute to the enterprise of the Hyperion label. It deserves a rich return' (The Sunday Times)

'Steven Isserlis is one of the finest of the current generation of young British cellists, and this recording is a worthy successor to his Hyperion CD recitals of Faure and Brahms' (Music and Musicians)

Sonata for cello and piano No 3

Poco andante  [6'58]
Andante  [6'21]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In October 1942 Martinu composed a set of bravura Variations on a theme by Rossini which he dedicated to Piatigorsky, but it was ten years before the last of the cello sonatas appeared. Sonata for cello and piano No 3 was written at Vieux-Moulin near Paris in the autumn of 1952 during the interlude between the composer’s two periods of residence in America. This was a period of transition for Martinu. He had written the Rhapsody-Concerto for viola, a work of extraordinary and sustained beauty, earlier in the year and was moving into the realm of fantasy exemplified by the projected opera La plainte contre inconnu and the Fantaisies symphoniques (Sixth Symphony) of the following year.

The third cello sonata occupies ground somewhere between that of the concerto and the symphony. Its form is fluid. Strict Classical forms never adapted readily to Martinu’s compositional processes and he rarely paid more than lip-service to them. The looser process of constant evolution, his version of ‘fantasia’, was more congenial, and these years were devoted to its consolidation into a compositional method.

Of all of Martinu’s chamber works for cello, the third sonata has established itself most firmly in the affections of performing artists and is consequently the most familiar to the general public. It satisfies the demands of the two players more completely than its companions, but its secret is perhaps that, of the three, it is the most personal yet most obviously Czech in spirit, particularly in the cast of its melodies. It is dedicated to the memory of an old friend, Hans Kindler, to whom seven years previously Martinu had dedicated his orchestral scherzo Thunderbolt – P47. It had its premiere in Washington towards the end of 1952.

This sonata was not Martinu’s epitaph for the cello, however. His very last instrumental composition was another duo for cello and piano, again profoundly Czech in spirit. The Variations on a Slovak folk melody, written at Paul Sacher’s house, occupied him from 14 to 20 March 1959. Fittingly they were given their first performance in Prague in October that year by an old friend, Sasa Vectomov, since when they have become a kind of valediction to their composer, a man of great gifts and wide experience, personally shy and unpretentious. But, above all, Czech.

from notes by Kenneth Dommett © 1989

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