MARTINŮ Bohuslav, Three Madrigals
It was hearing a performance of Mozart’s Duo in B flat played by Josef and Lillian Fuchs (brother and sister) that inspired Martinů to compose his Three Madrigals in February–March 1947, with the subtitle ‘Duo No. 1’ on the autograph manuscript. Martinů wrote to his friend Miloš Šafránek on 16 May 1947: ‘I have written Three Madrigals for violin and viola … for J. Fuchs and Lillian (his sister) who is a great and unique viola player. I heard them at a concert and was amazed by their artistic quality, so I wrote the Duo for them, and it seems to be good. They are both excited and will put it in their Carnegie recital.’ This was given on 22 December 1947 and in the next day’s New York Times, the venerated critic Virgil Thomson gave a warm welcome to the new work: ‘a delight for musical fantasy, for ingenious figuration [and] for Renaissance-style evocation.’ Josef and Lillian Fuchs performed the Madrigals on many more occasions and when their recording of the work was issued in 1950, it was coupled, appropriately, with the Mozart Duo in B flat.
© Nigel Simeone