Cello Concerto No. 1, H. 196 (3 versions)
Cello Concerto, Op. 143
Capriccio for cello & orchestra
Czech cellist Jirí Bárta's debut disc as a concerto soloist is a fabulous success. As in his earlier recordings of Kodály's solo cello sonatas and Rubinstein's accompanied cello sonatas, Bárta plays with a strong but flexible technique, a finely honed tone, and a robust sense of rhythm. As before, Bárta takes on relatively unfamiliar repertoire and makes a case convincing for the music. Of the three works here, Martinu's concerto from 1955 is the best known, while Jan Novák's "Capriccio for cello and small orchestra" from 1958 is rarely heard outside of the Czech Republic, and Josef Bohuslav Foerster's concerto, written in 1931, receives its first recording. Bárta, accompanied by Jakub Hrusa and the Prague Philharmonia, turns in convincing performances of every work. The performers catch Martinu's light colors, luminous lyricism, and effervescent tempos; Foerster's robust combination of late Romantic themes and early modernist harmonies; and Novák's unlikely but exciting combination of postwar modernism and pre-war jazz, as if Shostakovich's "Cello Concerto" met Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Though the soloist and the works may be aural terra incognito for many listeners, anyone who enjoys great cello playing and fascinating music will likely enjoy this disc. Supraphon's digital sound is clean and evocative.