General information
Title CZConcertino pro klavírní trio a smyčcový orchestr
Title ENConcertino for Piano Trio and String Orchestra
Title DEConcertino für Klaviertrio und Streichorchester
Title FRConcertino pour trio avec piano et l'orchestre à cordes
SubcategoryDouble, Triple and Quadruple Concertos
Halbreich number232
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Allegro (con brio); 2. Moderato; 3. Adagio; 4. Allegro
Solo voiceVl Vc Pf
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationAu Trio Hongrois
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1933
Initiation of composition20.08.1933
Completion of composition31.08.1933
First performance
Performer Harsányi, Tibor
Kägi, Walter
Sacher, Paul
Sturzenegger, Richard
Date of the first performance16.10.1936
Location of the first performanceBasel, Switzerland
Note on the first performanceWalter Kägi (Vl), Richard Sturzenegger (Vc), Tibor Harsanyi (Pf), Paul Sacher (cond.)
Ensemble Das Basler Kammerorchester
Basler Kammerorchester
Autograph deposition
InstitutionBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
OwnerCentrum Bohuslava Martinů v Poličce
CopyrightBärenreiter Praha
Purchase linkbuy
Melantrich, Prague, 1949
Call number at the BM Institute: 1019, 1019a
Specification of the edition: 1st edition
Details of this edition
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Title on the title page of the autograph: "Concertino. | pour trio (avec piano[)] et orchestre à cordes."
About the composition

The Concertino for Piano Trio and String Orchestra, H 232 was written as part of a series of almost two dozen concertato works composed by Bohuslav Martinů between 1931 and 1943. Most of these works show the influence of the Baroque "concerto gross" form to a greater or lesser extent. A form, which reached its culmination during the Baroque period in works by Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, and J. S. Bach, is based on the alternation of a solo ensemble (later more and more replaced by a single solo instrument) called the "concertino" or "soli" with a larger instrumental group called the "concerto grosso" or "tutti". Martinů was fascinated not only by this principle: he found that other traits associated with this form along with the Baroque rhythm, phrasing, and other devices were also more than suitable for his style of thought: "The concerto grosso is not merely a play of soloists with tutti. Here we find ourselves on the turf of pure music or, quite simply, on the turf of music. Here we don't need so many colors and orchestral effects. There is no acoustical or emotional build to a climax here such as often leads us to places we absolutely don't want to go and which often impoverishes the line and musical thought with a certain stereotypical build to a climax where true music is simply missing. Fewer overly-visible emotions and much more music in a concise form - that is concerto grosso." So wrote the composer in connection with his Toccata e due canzoni, H 311 from 1946, in which he again returned to this favorite form of his. Martinů's general fondness for polyphonic texture also combines well with the Baroque manner of expression, as shown by compositions of his from the late 1920s through his late symphonic and vocal works.

The four-movement Concertino was written from the 20th to the 31st of August in 1933, the premiere was given by the Basel Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Paul Sacher and was one of Martinů's first contacts with this conductor. An excellent performance was delivered by the Trio Hongrois headed by pianist Tibor Harsányi, a member of the "Ecole de Paris" group of composers including also Martinů, M. Mihalovici, C. Beck, and later A. Tcherepnin and A. Tansman, united more by the fate of emigrants than by a common agenda.

Although Martinů tended to avoid sonata form especially in works in concerto grosso style, in the first movement of the Concertino we can recognize its structure. The first theme is presented by the piano, and the second by the whole concertino of piano, violin, and cello. In the development section the first theme is mainly the domain of the piano and the string tutti, whereas elaboration of the second, more lyrical theme belongs almost exclusively to the concertino. The tonally-loosened stream of music is interrupted by the appearance of a shortened reprise with two C major chords returning from the very beginning of the movement. The two central slow movements are both characterized by rhythmic-agogic complexity and can pose an appropriate technical challenge for performers. But when they meet the challenge the true beauty and mastery of both movements is revealed. The second movement, filled with typical rhythmic figurations, is a series of six sections alternating the concertino with the tutti, varying a single rhythmically-striking theme. The third movement draws us still more into the atmosphere of Baroque music with its striking arpeggios and ornamentation. The final movement follows a three-part form whose middle section is devoted to the solo concertino. In this movement the use of opposition of instruments even within the concertino itself is more evident: the solo violin asserts itself more, and the piano is occasionally joined with the string tutti.

Jana Honzíková, programme of the Bohuslav Martinů Festival's concert, December 8, 2001

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