LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: The Two Blue Os; Concertino
PERFORMER: Eva Braito (harpsichord); Bratislava Opera CO, Artemis Ensemble Vorarlberg/Paul Kantschieder
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1422-2
Though substantial essays by Poulenc and Falla are the paragons of the 20th-century harpsichord concerto, the pieces on this disc make for an impressive second division. Françaix, purveyor of mordant charm, to some extent follows in Poulenc’s footsteps, but his five-movement, twenty-minute concerto says something special of its own. His opening Toccata shows superb draftsmanship of line and colour enlivening a row of simple chords.
The idiom is of a nimble classicism that suggests Scarlatti, but which also catches glimpses of the sad-eyed clown. Martinu’s concerto ideal seems more of the Brandenburg variety, with the weighty tread of a composer who for all his gallant airs still needs to be taken seriously.
He eschews a ‘sewing machine’ view of the harpsichord for a pattern of solos and tuttis, with a ripe, chromatic slow movement that explores depths of feeling less frequently associated with this instrument. Jelinek’s jazzy The Two Blue Os are great fun. The real find, however, is the lively Concertino by Ferenc Farkas: capricious and Romantic by turns, and full of Hungarian style and flair. Nicholas Williams