Graham Rickson
March 2019

You can't overdose on Martinů: four reissued discs of concertante music for violin and orchestra might sound heavy going but I challenge anyone to get bored. There's an embarrassment of riches here, most of it seldom heard in the UK. You could do worse than start with the sublime Rhapsody-Concerto, soloist Bohuslav Matoušek switching to viola. Martinů characterised his lyrical late period as marking a shift from 'geometry to fantasy', and here the motor rhythms are less prominent while the melodies soar. It's brilliantly performed here, the introspective coda as emotionally charged as any on disc. The two ‘straight’ violin concertos date from 1933 and 1943 respectively. The score of the earlier work was lost and only resurfaced in the late 1960s. No 2 is more striking, its long opening movement containing a superb cantabile melody.

The great Fritz Kreisler commissioned Martinů’s Czech Rhapsody but never performed it. It's heard here in an idiomatic arrangement by Jiří Teml, ably recreating Martinů's orchestral luminosity. The brittle Concerto da camera was written in 1941 for Paul Sacher’s Basel Chamber Orchestra. Karel Košárek is the obbligato pianist, teaming up with Matoušek again in an inexplicably neglected Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra. Two versions of the Suite Concertante appear, the second so radically revised that it's effectively a different piece. Plus a concerto for two violins and one for flute, violin and orchestra. You can't imagine this repertoire being handled with more care and affection. The late Christopher Hogwood secures exquisite playing from the Czech Philharmonic and Hyperion's engineering glows. Beautiful.