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Bartók • Martinů: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2, etc

Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Bartók  Martinů
Martinu˚: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Bartók: Sonata for Solo Violin
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša
BIS BIS-2457 (CD/SACD)   74:40 mins


For nearly 30 years Martinů’s First Violin Concerto, completed in 1933, was thought to have been lost. Composed for the American violinist Samuel Dushkin, who turned out to be very demanding where the solo part was concerned, the work disappeared during Martinů’s lifetime and had to wait nearly 15 years after his death for its premiere in 1973.

The work itself might be described as transitional; in the outer movements Martinů favours the busy, sometimes jazz-inflected neo-classicism he cultivated in the late 1920s. The slow movement, however, is full of generous, almost pastoral lyricism looking forward to his music of the 1940s. Zimmermann has fully absorbed the slightly eclectic style of the work and produces a performance of conviction, not to mention dazzling virtuosity. Hrůša accompanies with understanding and flexibility, while the players of the Bamberg Symphony clearly relish Martinů’s highly coloured orchestral palette.

The Second Concerto composed in the United States, where Martinů had fled in 1943, is full of anticipation of his later maturity. Reflecting the tonal beauty of Mischa Elman’s playing for whom it was written, there is a wealth of lyrical melody underpinned by strong symphonic fibre. Zimmermann and Hrůša deliver another superb performance – the sprung rhythms of the first movement and robust ebullience of the finale are brilliantly captured in one of the most satisfying recorded performances available.

The Bartók Solo Violin Sonata is a great bonus and beautifully played, but these landmark performances of the Martinů concertos are the headline items and both are unquestionably outstanding.


Jan Smaczny