The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Vladimír Buka? (viola) Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimír Válek (conductor)
Composer: Martinu, Hindemith, Bartók

Vladimír Buka? is the viola player of the prestigious Talich Quartet and a teacher at the Hochschule für Musik, Dresden. With this recording he presents his considerable credentials as a concerto soloist. Martinu’s Rhapsody-Concerto was written while he was living in the US (the pretentious booklet notes make quite a meal of the fact that all these composers expressed their suffering as exiles through the viola’s oh-so-melancholy voice). I am not aware of any direct folklore quotations, but Martinu’s music is certainly imbued with the Czech spirit, especially the finale’s heart-rending F major tune. Buka?’s performance is thoroughly idiomatic; he is well supported by the orchestra, and beautifully recorded in a realistic balance. Trauermusik also receives an expressive performance.

Bartók’s Viola Concerto was, of course, left unfinished at his death and was ‘prepared for publication from the composer’s sketches’ by Tibor Serly, in which form it quickly became a staple of the viola repertoire. Only relatively recently have doubts about Serly’s work been expressed, and several alternative realisations proffered, of which only the one by Peter Bartók and Nelson Dellamaggiore is legally permitted. The present recording is a confusing (and uncredited) mixture of (mostly) Serly’s solo part and overall structure combined with the Bartók–Dellamaggiore orchestration. For all the undoubted brilliance of Buka?’s playing, it fails to persuade me; a more convincing performing version (mainly Serly, with a few corrections from the manuscript) was recorded by Kim Kashkashian and Peter Eötvös (ECM). In all, however, a creditable visiting card from a player whose acquaintance I am pleased to have made.   

Carlos María Solare