Martinu Cello Sonatas Nos 1, 2 & 3

A fine survey of Martinů’s works for cello and piano from the Watkins brothers

Author: 
Guy Rickards

Martinu Cello Sonatas Nos 1, 2 & 3

The focus on Martinu’s works for cello and piano continues even though the 50th anniversary year of his death has now well passed. This is the fifth recording of at least one of them (and the third of all three sonatas) to have come my way in the past couple of years; none of his other chamber works – the string quartets, for instance – have received anything like the same exposure.

The three sonatas (1939; 1941; 1952) and the two sets of variations are the primary works, few performers tackling the clutch of neo-classical pieces from the early 1930s that Rafael Sommer and Daniel Adni covered in their benchmark survey, issued by the Rafael Sommer Trust and Dvorák Society. Alas, their availability is restricted; this new set boasts richly superior sound quality and – with one small cavil aside – is scarcely inferior in terms of performance quality.

The Watkins duo sound convincingly on Martinu’s wavelength from the first bar of the First Sonata and are a match for Zappa and Mainolfi’s vigorous accounts. Chandos’s sound is more natural than that provided by Claves, too close-miked for its own good, and richer than Supraphon’s for Jamník and Kahánek. Each work is projected with fervour, the one glitch being the rushed tempo at the start of No 3, Huw Watkins slipping into same trap as did Mainolfi: Kahánek and Adni are the ideal here. The two sets of variations come off superbly too, far more convincingly than Blaumane and Katsnelson and outpointing Jamník and Kahánek. An excellent disc and the best of the commercially available sets.

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