Martinu: Violin Concerto No. 2; Serenade No. 2; Toccata e due canzoni

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COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Martinu
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 2; Serenade No. 2; Toccata e due canzoni
PERFORMER: Isabelle Faust (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano); Prague Philharmonia/Jirí Belohlávek
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901951

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Commissioned by Mischa Elman, Martin∞’s Second Violin Concerto is one of his greatest works in the genre. With a clear eye to Elman’s celebrated lyrical abilities, the Concerto is notable for its abundant melody. But, as with the near-contemporary Second Cello Concerto, there is a strong sense of symphonic development. The present recording is a near-ideal interpretation of the work. From her very first entry, Isabelle Faust shows a strong feeling for the work’s dramatic ebb and flow, and in the supremely beautiful slow movement achieves heights of eloquence. B∑lohlávek, with the relatively small forces of the Prague Philharmonia, provides magnificently flexible accompaniment where necessary and a clear vision of the work’s broadly developed structure. The remaining pieces comprise an arrangement for string orchestra of the miniature, classically orientated Serenade for two violins and viola, and the Toccata and canzonas composed for the 20th anniversary of Paul Sacher’s Basel Chamber Orchestra. The latter is a substantial, often dark-hued work which looks forward to Martin∞’s Sixth Symphony. As in the Concerto, B∑lohlávek produces readings that are have an exemplary blend of rhythmic poise and persuasive lyricism, reaching a high point in the first Canzona. Excellently recorded, this is an issue to treasure. Jan Smaczny