General information
Title CZKoncert pro violoncello a orchestr č. 1
Title ENConcerto for Violoncello and Orchestra No. 1
Title DEKonzert für Cello und Orchester Nr. 1
Title FRConcerto pour violoncelle et orchestre n° 1
SubcategoryVioloncello Concertos
Halbreich number196 II
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Allegro moderato; 2. Andante moderato; 3. Allegro
Solo voiceVc
Dedicatee Fournier, Pierre
Note on the dedicationPierre Fournier
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1939
Initiation of composition1939
Completion of composition1939
First performance
Performer Pierre Fournier (Vc); Charles Munch (dir./cond.)
Fournier, Pierre
Munch, Charles
Location of the first performanceParis
Ensemble Société Philharmonique de Paris
Autograph deposition
InstitutionPaul Sacher Stiftung
Deposition locationBasel
OwnerPaul Sacher Stiftung, Basel
Note on the autograph depostitionParts by a foreign hand (Georges Marey) also held by PSS, Basel.
CopyrightSchott Music, Mainz
References Related correspondence
Documents in the Library
Note Second version of the Concerto. *** Title on the title page of the autograph: "Concerto pour violoncelle et orchestre". *** Premiere according to the NY Times (13.06.1952): Paris 1948.
About the composition

A great variety can be found in Martinů’s large concertante works, which consist of more than thirty compositions for both solo instruments and groups of instruments with orchestra. These compositions--very different in kind, form, and instrumentation--can be grouped into two main categories. The "concerto grosso" principle is a key to the first group, and Martinů’s inspiration for this principle is far from traditional. Instead of only using it in compositions for a group of solo instruments on one hand and an orchestra on the other, he also applies it to compositions for a solo instrument with an orchestra. An example of this approach is the Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra with Piano, H 246, as well as the Concerto da Camera for Violin, String Orchestra with Piano and Percussion, H 285. The second group consists of compositions inspired by the classical-romantic instrumental concerto.

The long historical record of the Concerto No.1 for Cello and Orchestra is filled with changes. In essence, the original concept of the "concerto grosso" gradually became a monumental solo concerto with a large orchestra. The first version of the piece was written by Martinů in Polička and Paris in 1930, and he dedicated the concerto to Gaspar Cassadó, who premiered it in Berlin in 1931. Nine years later, unhappy with the chamber instrumentation, Martinů resumed work on the piece and transformed it into a work for a large orchestra. However, this version would also not be the final one. In 1955, Martinů heard it on Parisian radio and he was literally appalled by its dense orchestration. He consequently re-orchestrated it and revived the solo part. This version, in his own words, "correct and final", was then dedicated to Pierre Fournier, with whom Martinů had consulted for the changes in the solo instrument.

The overall conception of the concerto follows the typical order of the movements of this genre: fast, slow, fast. The introductory Allegro moderato, full of life and energy, sets up the space for solo violoncello. The out-reaching character of the first movement is in sharp contrast with the central Andante, which is deep, appealing, and even nostalgic. A rich melodic quality is characteristic for the sections of inner calamity and tension, the main stress of which lies on the solo violoncello, while the orchestra is only accompanying. The final fast movement's central section is andante and has a solo cadence reminiscent of the second movement. The third movement’s melodic line, meanwhile, is similar to the first one. Due to the syncopated rhythm, frequent staccato, and a wide, dynamic surface, the music is rich in vitality, and it is in this atmosphere that the concerto finally ends.

Sandra Bergmannová, programme of the Bohuslav Martinů Festival's concert, 17. a 18. 12. 1998

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