Hyperion Records

Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra, H342
1 December 1952 - 10 March 1953, New York; first performed by the dedicatees Benno and Sylvia Rabinof with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra under Victor Alessandro, in San Antonio on 13 November 1954

'Martinů: Complete music for violin & orchestra, Vol. 2' (CDA67672)
Martinů: Complete music for violin & orchestra, Vol. 2
Movement 1: Poco allegro
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Allegro

Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra, H342
Compared to the rather neo-Impressionistic works from this period—the most prominent one being the complex and dense Phantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No 6, H343)—the Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra appears to be surprisingly tonal and traditional. Its first movement, Poco allegro, combines neo-baroque techniques with elements of jazz. The toccata-like opening in D minor evokes the famous Double concerto for two string orchestras from 1938, and introduces a feverish ostinato around the basic note D. This is followed by a surprisingly Dvorák-like melody in the strings. The first entrance of the solo piano adopts the toccata of the orchestral introduction, but in E flat minor. The solo violin steps in, taking up the string melody of the introduction, now in E flat major. Throughout the middle section Martinu works with these two motifs. After the recapitulation a coda in E major closes the movement.

The second movement, Adagio, opens in a sort of E minor. Though very tonal again, here the proximity to his more typical music of that time such as The Greek Passion can be felt, distinguished by sudden changes of mood as well as of the density of orchestral texture. It feels like a strange meditation, anticipating with its simplicity Martinu’s elementary folk cantata Opening of the Springs from 1955.

The solo violin enters with a variant of its theme from the first movement. The piano joins in with figurative passagework in C major, at first providing an accompanimental backdrop for an orchestral oboe solo and only gradually developing into a genuine solo part. A richly figurative cadenza for the two solo instruments is followed by a vibrant orchestral melody that reminds us of the composer’s Czech origins. Here, for the first time, the typical Juliette chord progression appears, a sort of plagal cadence best known from his opera Juliette which also appears in several other works, especially from the 1950s. The movement closes in an emphatic C major.

The opening orchestral section of the Allegro reflects the world of Martinu’s Symphony No 4, written at the end of World War 2. The piano enters in C major with an optimistic variant of the toccata-like figuration of the first movement. Just two bars later it is joined by the solo violin. The second theme sounds like a highly unusual fusion of the expressive worlds of Dvorák’s violin concerto and late nineteenth-century Italian opera. Short melodic cells, however, refer to the neo-baroque period of Martinu. What seems at first to be a literal reprise is suddenly stopped after just thirteen bars by a highly operatic procedure: a long pause followed by an unusually dramatic, even tragic, entrance of the piano. It is easy to see at this point a sort of Faustian dilemma (‘Two souls live in my chest’), but we cannot know whether this was what Martinu had in mind. The dark vision is lightened slightly by the entrance of two clarinets and by a gradual tonal stabilization. Step by step the orchestra comes in. The coda is in Martinu’s favourite key of B flat major; it presents stretto fanfares from the oboes and trumpets and modulates to E minor. A chorale melody finally leads to the culmination in C major.

from notes by Aleš Brezina © 2008

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

   English   Français   Deutsch