Hyperion Records

Violin Concerto No 2, H293
composer
23 February to 26 April 1943, New York City; commissioned by Mischa Elman who gave the first performance in Boston with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky on 31 December 1943

Recordings
'Martinů: Complete music for violin & orchestra, Vol. 4' (CDA67674)
Martinů: Complete music for violin & orchestra, Vol. 4
Details
Movement 1: Andante – Poco allegro – Moderato
Movement 2: Andante moderato
Movement 3: Poco allegro

Violin Concerto No 2, H293
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In the programme of the premiere Martinu described the concerto in some detail: ‘The idea for this concerto presented itself to me with the following order—Andante, a broad lyric song of great intensity which leads to a Poco allegro, exploiting the technique and the virtuosity of the instrument, and has the aspect of a single-movement composition. The definitive form complies with concerto structure. I have preserved its grave character, lyric in the first part, and even in the middle Allegro, the Andante theme returns to close the movement. The second part [Andante moderato] is a sort of point of rest, a bridge progressing towards the final Poco allegro. It is an intermezzo moderato, almost bucolic, accompanied by only a part of the orchestra and progressing attacca into the finale, which is Poco allegro. This movement favours the technique of the violin, which is interrupted by broad and massive tutti passages. The concerto ends with a sort of stretto, Allegro (vivo).’ In his general thoughts on violin concertos of the past that follows, Martinu distinguishes several types of use of the solo violin and clearly prefers those which emphasize ‘inherent beauty of tone’.

According to Martinu’s programme notes for the premiere, the cadenza at the end of the first part was added subsequently at Elman’s suggestion. From Martinu’s letters to the Czech publisher Karel Šebánek it is obvious that he made some corrections to the score, probably in two stages. On 10 October 1947 he wrote: ‘I would like to make some changes in the cadenzas but I do not know where and whether to do so at all.’ More than a month later, on 18 November 1947, Martinu admitted to Šebánek that he had already ‘made some changes in the score after the premiere of the concerto’, and was not sure if the publisher had the corrected copy or not. The original manuscripts of the concerto (at least three are reported in the composer’s correspondence) and the handwritten piano reduction remain missing, so we cannot be certain whether these final revisions are included in the published version. The fact that Martinu later greeted the receipt of five printed scores sent to him on 3 December 1949, describing them as ‘splendid’, missing only the dedication to Mischa Elman, is offset by his well-known, rather cursory approach to proofreading.

The premiere of the concerto took place in Boston on 31 December 1943, with the Boston Symphony conducted by Sergey Koussevitzky. Happily it was broadcast and much later released on CD—a priceless document that highlights the personal character of this concerto and how it was tailored to Mischa Elman. Elman retained exclusivity with this concerto for three years after its premiere, and performed it often. After his exclusivity expired in 1946 the concerto was taken up by several violinists; in a letter to Šebánek from 7 January 1947 Martinu mentions ‘a big interest in the concerto’, citing ‘the brilliant young violinist Isaac Stern’ as one of the musicians investigating the work. Other violinists who performed the concerto include Louis Kaufman, Bruno Bevlcík and especially Josef Suk, who performed this concerto many times and in 1978 received the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles Cros for his recording with Václav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic.

from notes by Aleš Brezina © 2008

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67674 track 6
Poco allegro
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-08-67406
Duration
8'43
Recording date
1 June 2004
Recording venue
Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Recording producer
Zdenek Zahradník
Recording engineer
Tomáš Zikmund
Hyperion usage
  1. Martinu: Complete music for violin & orchestra, Vol. 4 (CDA67674)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: September 2008
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