On their new album, the globally renowned artists, the virtuoso violinist Josef Špaček and the distinguished pianist Miroslav Sekera, present Bohuslav Martinů as an astute creator of chamber music and concertos, a composer both international and Czech, widely known and still being discovered alike. The recording includes three pieces for violin and piano, displaying various styles and influences the composer embraced. On the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra the two soloists are accompanied by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petr Popelka. The album, whose making was supported by the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation, will be released on 8 September 2023 on CD and in digital formats.
“It’s a great advantage for string instrument players that Bohuslav Martinů was a violinist himself. Although being singular in terms of technique and applying his own deep-rooted practices, his pieces are ‘performer-friendly’. When it comes to the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, the violin part is particularly challenging. Nevertheless, Martinů evidently knew precisely how far he could go, so as to keep it playable,” Josef Špaček said.
Bohuslav Martinů was a violinist himself, yet the piano colour in many of his symphonic scores is his actual signature. The two instruments are assigned solo roles in the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, commissioned by Benno and Sylvia Rabinoff, who duly premiered it in May 1954. Written concurrently with Symphony No. 6 (Fantaisies symphoniques), the magnificent work is hardly ever performed nowadays. Different is the case of Violin Sonata No. 3 (1944), created in the USA too, which has long been a staple of violinists’ repertoires worldwide. Amid the atmosphere of the imminent end of WWII and feeling homesick, Martinů conceived a monument whose duration is that of a symphony, a work teeming with contrastive drama and lyricism, and featuring a Dvořák-like nostalgia, evoking his Czech roots. In comparison with the two “American” works, the Cinq pièces brèves (1930), dating from Martinů’s Paris period, contains far rougher harmonies and piquancy, attesting to a penchant for the Charleston, as well as a propensity to the contrapuntal style.
“Working with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Petr Popelka was amazing! Petr is a prodigious professional, while the orchestra acquitted of their part with aplomb, even though the piece is rarely performed. As regards collaboration with Mirek Sekera, there is no need to comment. Having been musical partners for over a decade, Mirek and I are a well-coordinated tandem,” Špaček added.