Hyperion Records

Duo concertante for two violins and orchestra, H264
The three-movement Duo concertante for two violins and orchestra H264 is a double concerto in the form of the Baroque concerto grosso. It was written in November and December 1937 in Nice at the villa ‘Point Claire’ which belonged to Martinu's old friend the Czech painter Josef Šíma. The composer commented on this piece in a letter to Miloš Šafránek from Nice: ‘I have conceived the orchestra very lightly so as not to cover the soloists and so that the solos don’t have to be forced. The tempo of the first movement adheres to that of a concerto grosso, meaning don’t hurry, but on the contrary play with the intention more of holding back so that sonority and technique can come to the fore. I think Poco allegro is apt. The second movement, Lento, presents no problems with tempo. […] As far as the title is concerned, I didn’t write any on the score, but I think best would be the Duo concertante for two violins and orchestra.’

From this concerto grosso-style work Martinu adopted the typical alternation of solo and tutti, which fascinated him for a number of years. Typical for his works from the 1930s are the three-movement structure and the departure from sonata form with its individual themes, which are replaced here by a continuous fabric of delicate motivic elements. Emphasis is placed on orchestral colour. The freshness of the musical ideas and the virtuoso writing of the two solo violin parts make this eighteen-minute composition an extraordinary musical experience.

The premiere took place on 10 February 1938 in Yverdon (Switzerland) with Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet. The solo parts were played by the brothers Georges and Victor Desarzens, who had commissioned the work and to whom it is dedicated. Victor later became a celebrated conductor; he founded the Orchestre de chambre in Lausanne and performed many orchestral pieces by Martinu in both Lausanne and Winterthur, his other place of work. Some autograph materials for the concerto were recently donated to the Martinu Foundation by Victor Desarzens’ daughter Martine, along with a very important and illuminating correspondence between her father and Bohuslav Martinu.

from notes by Aleš Brezina © 2007

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