MARTINU: Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol. 2 – Bohuslav Matousek, violin/ Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christopher Hogwood – Hyperion

by | Mar 7, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MARTINU: Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol. 2 – Bohuslav Matousek, violin/ Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christopher Hogwood – Hyperion CDA 67672, 65 min. **** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu was a violinist by trade, and despite being expelled from the Prague Conservatory for “incorrigible negligence,” he continued his studies and eventually secured a position with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. That same orchestra is represented in this superb continuation disc in a series (this disc is number 2 of 4) of Martinu works for violin and orchestra from Hyperion. They’re conducted once again by Christopher Hogwood, who in addition to his renowned baroque and classical expertise apparently has quite an affinity for the works of Martinu. He studied for a time in Prague, and became quite a student of the many works of the Czech expatriate, lending an even greater sense of authenticity to the performances here.

This music has such a ring of familiarity to it; it’s really hard to believe than Martinu’s works are not ingrained into the mainstream consciousness of classical music listeners everywhere. Many of his works seem reminiscent of Bela Bartok, and they stem from the same time period, under much the same circumstances as Bartok endured. Martinu was also forced to flee Europe by the Nazi invasion; he also settled in the United States for a while, and although he did return to Europe, it was during the Prague Spring when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, and he never returned to his homeland. Martinu’s compositions, on the whole, are much more sunny than the typical Bartok piece, and his works are not derivative from Czech folk music – that definitely distinguishes him from his Hungarian counterpart. Portions of his Concerto da camera, written for piano, string orchestra and percussion, ring clearly of the second movement Allegro from Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Orchestra. In fact, Martinu’s use of the piano is strikingly similarly to the way Bartok employs the piano in many of his works, often to chilling effect.

This disc is superb in every aspect from performance to recording quality, and will really force the listener to re-evaluate Martinu’s place among composers. Very highly recommended.

— Tom Gibbs 

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