ALBUM TITLE: Martinu
WORKS: Concerto for flute and violin; Duo concertante for two violins; Concerto in D for two violins
PERFORMER: Bohuslav Matousek, Régis Pasquier, Jennifer Koh (violin), Janne Thomsen (flute); Czech PO/Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67671
What a splendidly bracing collection this is. The first of a projected four-volume series of Martinu’s complete works for violin and orchestra, this is a most encouraging beginning. The music ranges from Martinu’s later Parisian years, before the Second World War, to the ravishing Double Violin Concerto of 1940; throughout there is clear evidence of Martinu’s admiration for the Baroque concerto grosso. While the outer movements tend toward a very particular re-imaging of Baroque practices, there is also much that is open-heartedly Romantic; the slow movements, in particular, approach the warmth associated with the music of such contemporaries as Samuel Barber, occasionally even Copland.
Bohuslav Matousek and his fellow soloists are excellent advocates for this repertoire, delivering engaging performances of the motoric fast movements alongside generous lyricism in the more broadly conceived slower movements. Conductor Christopher Hogwood’s credentials as a Martinu performer are well established and he delivers these works with the right blend of punchy directness and relaxation; the accompaniment of the soloists is particularly impressive even if, exceptionally, at the start of the Flute and Violin Concerto the orchestra sounds a little less than alert. That the performances are also excellently recorded can only do good for Martinu’s reputation as one of the 20th-century’s great concerto composers.