What is NR for a concert

Bohuslav Martinu, son of a cobbler and church tower guard, spent his childhood mostly in the lofty heights of the tower apartment near the church bells. Bohuslav received his first violin lessons on the ground floor with a music-making tailor. The talented young musician was funded by the village community for training at the Prague Conservatory. After a few years as a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic, Martinu moved to Paris thanks to a scholarship, took composition lessons with Albert Roussel and absorbed the artistic trends of Impressionism, Neoclassicism and the «Groupe de Six». Under this influence and on the basis of his intensive preoccupation with the polyphony of the Renaissance and concertante Baroque forms, he developed his own style. Before the raging World War in Europe, Martinu fled to the USA, where he received commissions from important conductors and his works were played by leading orchestras. After the war, Martinu returned to Europe, but then he never saw his homeland, which was meanwhile communist, and died in exile in Switzerland.

In terms of composition, he worked with so-called cells. Concentrated rhythmic-melodic basic shapes come into play in a free, polyphonic, harmoniously colorful network. The original folk music of the homeland always remained a source of inspiration for Martinu. The string instruments met his powerful melodic tonal language very well. The composer wrote five concertante works for violin and cello with orchestra and a lot of chamber music for strings.

From Cassadó to Fournier. Martinu began composing his first concerto for violoncello and orchestra in his hometown of Policka in the summer of 1930 and completed it in Paris in the autumn of the same year. The first performance was given by the Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassadó in 1931 in Berlin. However, this is not the work that can be heard in today's concert, but it formed the basis for a revision that Martinu decided to do after a re-performance of the concert in Paris in 1938 with Pierre Fournier as a soloist. A chamber concert, which Martinu put on as a kind of concerto grosso in the neo-baroque style that was popular at the time, became a symphonic soloist concert. This new version had its premiere again in 1939 with Pierre Fournier as a soloist and with the conductor Charles Munch in Paris.

The final shape. When the composer heard this new version on a radio broadcast many years later (1955), he was no longer satisfied with the instrumentation and reworked the score again. Again it was the now dedicatee Fournier who also launched this third, final version for the composer - 1955 in Lausanne. In the first movement, Allegro moderato, the trumpet introduces the main motif, which is immediately carried on by woodwinds and strings and used as a «starter» by the solo instrument. A syncope gives the motif a slightly jazzy touch. The lyrical secondary theme with ascending and descending melodies, intoned by the solo cello, is then emphasized as hymns by the entire orchestra in the second part of the movement. The composer probably expresses homesickness through the folk music. Before and after this emotional climax, the solo instrument races up and down the scales and plays itself freely with double-touch sequences and repetitive tone sequences.

The clarinet starts the second movement, Andante moderato, further woodwinds and especially the trumpet take over the vocal style and pass it on to the solo instrument, which "sings" a sweeping song - first gently, then more passionately. Suddenly the orchestra begins with a massive downward movement, bringing a tragic sound to the movement. The cadenza for the violoncello is then set in the center of the entire concert. A solemn melody in the oboe leads to a dramatic orchestral climax from which sadness and despair speak even more than before. But the cello brings the movement to an intimate end with cantilenas.

In the finale, Martinu returns to the lyrical world of the second movement in an Andantino middle section. Then the solo instrument finds itself. Before that, in the Allegro, the cello and orchestra fight their way with runs and figures as well as alternating between even and odd time signatures through a hunting ground of virtuosity, which the soloist and his accompanist then whirl around with the Allegro sweep of the concert aim at.

© NÖ Tonkünstler Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H. | Rainer Lepuschitz