MARTINŮ: Violin Concerti Nos. 1 & 2 / Thomas Albertus Imberger, vln; Janáček Philharmonie Ostrava; Heiko Mathias Förster, cond / Gramola 99178
Thomas Albertus Imberger, a fairly young (33 years old) Austrian violinist, tackles here the two violin concerti of Bohuslav Martinů. These are virtuosic pieces, calling for numerous violinistic tricks such as double stops, spiccato and the like, yet they are also—like most of Martinů’s output—highly musical, inspired and well-constructed. The composer never called for his performers to do technical tricks for their own sake; there was always a sound musical reason for every note and phrase he put on paper.
Stylistically, they fall into Martinů’s middle period, the first concerto having been written in 1931 and the second in 1943. Despite the sometimes edgy harmonies and flashy passages, they tend towards lyricism, and I was very happy to hear Imberger play them with an excellent balance between the two contrasting moods, which come and go throughout each concerto. There are also certain moments in which the soloists is called upon to play highly syncopated passages; these were informed by the composer’s love of American jazz rhythms.
Despite the fact that only a dozen years separate them, these concerti are very different in style. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is full of violinistic tricks but also has a rather light-hearted mood, but the second, though no less difficult technically, is less flashy and has a quite serious feeling. It is both more lyrical and deeper in emotional content than the first, and although Imberger plays it with good feeling, I did not think that he got quite as deep into the music as Julia Fischer did in her performance with David Zinman conducting the Czech Philharmonic. Mind you, the Imberger-Förster duo is not at all bad, and in fact I thought that Förster put more feeling into the orchestral passages than Zinman did, so there is a trade-off in that respect, but Imberger sounds just a bit outside the emotional vortex of the piece.
All in all, however, this is an outstanding recording: crisp, clear playing set in equally crisp, clear sound. Recommended with the small reservations noted above.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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