First published in the Guardian on 7 May, 2015
Martinu: Rhapsody-Concerto, Sonata for Viola and Piano etc
Maxim Rysanov/BBCSO/Belohlavek (BIS)
It makes perfect sense that Bohuslav Martinu was a fan of the viola; the instrument’s generous, conversational voice is exactly right for his music, and this recording from Ukrainian violist Maxim Rysanov is easy proof of why. Martinu grew up in a church tower in small-town Moravia, watching the sporadic stream of townspeople down below. Those organic real-life rhythms are everywhere in his music — listen to the second movement of the Rhapsody-Concerto (1952) to hear fleeting modal shifts, folk melodies laced with trepidation and motoric outbursts jostling against lush pastoralism. Rysanov clinches the shifting characters and always makes his lines sing; conductor Jiri Belohlavek draws warmth and brawn from the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In the sunny Three Madrigals (1947) and restive Duo No. 2 (1950) Rysanov soars and spars with violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky; the Sonata for Viola and Piano (1955) sounds like it’s been recorded from far away, but I love the stately breadth that Katya Apekisheva brings to the piano lines.