Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů was an expatriate from 1923 for the rest of his life but retained strong mental ties to his homeland. Czech folk music remained of central importance amidst his numerous other influences. But it was Martinů’s growing interest in early music that engendered a Neo-Baroque vein in his works, becoming a dominant feature in his extensive catalogue.
Martinů completed his Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra in 1953, at a time when he was moving from Neo-Baroque towards a more Romantic late style. Unlike conventional concertos, this work only has two movements, but each of these contain sections in various tempos. Yet the form of the work is not as ‘rhapsodic’ as the title claims.
The first movement begins with a calm, melodic opening statement whose profile and rhythms are recognisable as typical for Martinů, including a flirting between major and minor that he derived from Czech folk music. The mood here is mainly lyrical and nostalgically tranquil, but is spiced up by a rhythmic dance-like element.
The second movement is initially more sombre, even melancholic as the viola enters. A solo passage (quasi cadenza) leads into a faster section with energetic figures for the viola. The kinetic energy subsides in a short solo passage, and the work concludes quietly.
Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi