This CD is a reissue of a 1992 Chandos disc featuring the eminent cellist Raphael Wallfisch, with Jirí Belohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic. It was applauded when it came out and quickly became the definitive recorded version of the 1st and 2nd cello concertos and the cello concertino. Martinu wrote four works for solo cello and orchestra as well as four other works for concertante groups including the cello. They are luscious, lively works with an air of spontaneity, dare I say improvisation, about them that is typical of Martinu. The 1st Concerto (1930, rev. 1939 and 1955, and played here in the final version for full orchestra; the original was for chamber orchestra) is notable for the beauty of its themes and its scintillating orchestration. The first trumpet has a blazing tune at the very beginning of the first movement and then has a long, lovely slow bluesy tune in the slow movement. The latter reminds me a bit of the slow movement's trumpet tune in Gershwin's Concerto in F. The Second Concerto (1944-45), scored for chamber orchestra and soloist, opens with a swinging melody that recurs throughout played with dark and delicious tone by Wallfisch. The end of the first movement is one of the most beautiful things Martinu ever wrote. It is a heartfelt song that makes me tear up each time I hear it. And its middle movement continues the mood. The finale is a romp with frequent accent displacements and Martinu's use of triadic scrims through which one hears the main melodies. The cellist's last movement cadenza is suddenly introspective, even soul-searcing. The Concertino (1924), a one movement work lasting fourteen minutes, is a sassy thing is for cello, wind instruments, piano and percussion. It is filled with angular rhythms, Stravinskyan dry humor and perky wind, percussion and obbligato piano licks.
This is a must-have for any admirer of Martinu, especially at its mid-price.