The Suite concertante, second version
, H276A, like the first version dedicated to Samuel Dushkin, is so radically different from its predecessor that it justifies its status as a separate work, rather than merely as a revision. Its four movements were probably written between November 1943 and February 1944. For the first movement Martinu used the material from the Prelude
of the first version, but altered it considerably. The basic tempo of Allegro is tempered by a cautionary poco moderato, probably to warn the soloist not to focus solely on technical brilliance but also on the beauty of tone required for an interpretation of the spicy, dissonant melody line. The second movement, with its title Aria
, recalls Stravinsky’s famous Violin Concerto. With this title Martinu refers not only to the instrumental arias of late Baroque music but also to the singable nature of Czech and Moravian folk music. After a large orchestral introduction the solo violin enters with an arched melody, which favours consonant intervals. The remaining two movements are in a fast tempo. The Scherzo
, with the tempo indication Allegretto scherzando, is a refined waltz full of chromatic ornaments for the solo violin. The thematic and textural similarity of the opening of the Rondo
with the final movement of Martinu’s Violin Concerto No 1 is a singular exception in the large output of this composer. Martinu probably considered the never-performed Concerto to have no future possibility of performance and so he returned to make use of this unusual idea in its finale. However, it is also possible that the similarity is explained by the fact that it addresses the same compositional ‘problem’—the finale of a violin concerto—in a work composed for the same musician, whose violin technique had likewise inspired Igor Stravinsky.
Dushkin premiered the second version of the Suite concertante on 28 December 1945 in St Louis, Missouri, with Vladimir Golschmann and the St Louis Orchestra. Although all the reviews in the local newspapers were positive and the Suite concertante was soon published by the German publishing house Schott, there is no evidence of any other performance of this piece. The European premiere took place only in November 1999 in Zlín with Bohuslav Matoušek and the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra Zlín under Tomáš Koutník.
from notes by Aleš Brezina © 2008