MARTINU: Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra; Triple Concerto; Concertino for Piano Trio and Orchestra; Pamatnik Lidicim (Memorial for Lidice) — Trio Wanderer/Tabea Zimmermann, viola/ Gurzenich Ochestra of Cologne/James Conlon — Capriccio

by | Aug 24, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

MARTINU: Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra; Triple
Concerto; Concertino for Piano Trio and Orchestra; Pamatnik Lidicim
(Memorial for Lidice) — Trio Wanderer/Tabea Zimmermann, viola/
Gurzenich Ochestra of Cologne/James Conlon — Capriccio multichannel
SACD 71 053, 71:22 ****:

Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) is a composer who might qualify as the
Czech Stravinsky, having a kind of eclectic neo-classical style derived
from Josef Suk’s master class and Albert Roussel’s lean Gallic syntax,
as well as having imbued the influences of Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, and
obviously, Stravinsky. Martinu’s studies in Paris involved his looking
hard at the twelve-tone technique of Schoenberg and Berg, which along
with own penchant for Czech liturgy and harmony, later fused with
baroque forms, to create a distinctive sound whose elements likewise
bond with compositions by Frank Martin and Ernest Bloch. Several of
Martinu’s works (like the Concertino) were commissioned by Paul Sacher,
the indefatigable champion of neo-classical music.  Terse and
musically laconic, the Concertino (1933) does have an airy pomp to it,
although the middle Adagio becomes anguished and strident in a manner
reminiscent of Stravinsky’s D Major Violin Concerto.

The compilation opens with the mordant Memorial for Lidice, the Czech
village destroyed by the Nazis on 10 June 1942 as a reprisal for the
assassination of Reinhard “The Hangman” Heydrich. The brooding and
dissonant concerto-grosso texture reaches a powerful climax which
quotes Beethoven’s fate-motif from the Fifth Symphony. The ensuing
Concertino (1936) makes for a striking contrast in emotional tone. In
the Capriccio’s surround sound, the outer movements snap and crackle
with angular pungent interplay from piano, violin, and cello, with
Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian’s violin’s rasping and singing in
effective counterpoint with his Wanderer Trio partners. The
Rhapsody-Concerto is a fantasia composed in America in 1952, a
concerto-grosso whose sweetness and open lyricism may remind listener
of similar kinds of writing by Aram Khachaturian. In two hefty sectons,
the Rhapsody permit’s the solo viola a healthy range of expression, the
melodic kernels worthy of compatriot Dvorak. The Molto Adagio becomes
emotional and agitated, the violas soaring in transcendent reflection,
a bold answer to Dvorak’s Silent Woods. Tabea Zimermann’s viola tone is
richly vibrant, and she communicates great sympathy for this work. Her
plangent cadenza takes us into the Poco Allegro section which features
bravura technique from all principals.

The Concerto for Piano Trio and String Orchestra (1933) is a Paris-born
composition previously lost and only rediscovered in 1962, to be given
its debut in Lucerne 31 August 1963 under the direction of Rudolf
Baumgartner. Clearly indebted to Bloch and concerto-grosso medium, the
four movement work exhibits a fanciful combination of aerial writing
for the piano trio combined with contrapuntal devices in neo-classic
style, close to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Apollo scores. The heart of
the work is an exuberant, ravishing Andante of uncommon power,
introduced by the solo piano (sounding like Berg’s Piano Sonata) and
then joined 20 bars later by cello and violin. Some of the harmonies
anticipate Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. The last two movements,
Scherzo and Moderato, urge the piece to a close with some deft piano
antics from Vincent Coq. Kudos to conductor James Conlon for some
courageous programming of Martinu works which surely deserve to become
more staple elements of the active, concert and radio repertory.

–Gary Lemco

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