The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Bohuslav Matoušek (violin) Régis Pasquier (violin)* Jennifer Koh (violin)†  Janine Thomsen (flute) Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Christopher Hogwood (conductor)
Composer: Martinu

Martinu’s list of compositions includes 16 operas, a dozen ballets, innumerable orchestral scores, over a hundred choral works, and most staggering of all, over 200 chamber works ranging from duos to nonets. Not all of his music attains the very highest standards, but considering the furious pace at which he worked, one cannot help but be amazed by a creative mind of such fertility and invention.

This is the first of four volumes from Hyperion collecting together all of Martinu’s music for violin and orchestra. All three concertos featured here are unique to the current UK catalogue and feature such high standards of performance and engineering that it is difficult to imagine them being surpassed in the near future. The three-movement flute and violin concerto (1936) was written in just ten days and exemplifies Martinu’s neo-Classical, concerto grosso style at its most spontaneous and enchanting. The Duo concertante, composed the following year, leans more towards Baroque stylisation with its constant dialogue between overlapping musical fragments, while the double violin concerto of 1950 almost sounds like the work of a different composer – ripely expressive, warm-hearted and insatiably optimistic.

Bohuslav Matoušek is a silvery-toned player with a relatively lightweight sound that suits Martinu’s neo-Classical gesturing to a tee. His clean attack and bracingly athletic approach to these scintillating scores effortlessly leads the ear on, and his various partners match their sound accordingly, most especially Jennifer Koh in the double concerto. Throughout Christopher Hogwood obtains playing of the highest distinction from his Czech players, and the recording gives the soloists just the right degree of added presence. Highly recommended.