'Les Six' (so named in 1920 by critic Henri Collet) hit the classical music scene with almost the same outrageous force with which the punk movement slammed into popular music in the 1970s and early '80s. It consisted of a group of six composers working in France: Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre and Louis Durey. Their music was largely a reaction against Impressionism and Wagnerism and incorporated the ideas of Satie and Cocteau with the popular styles of the time: French vaudeville, American jazz and café music.
Things are not nearly as bad for the admirer or potential admirer of Stanford’s chamber music as they were a couple of decades ago. The Clarinet Sonata has had a good run for its money on disc and the two violin sonatas have been recorded, but much remained on the shelf. Now we have a three-CD box of the complete music for violin and piano from Alberto Bologni and Christopher Howell.
For those who like their modernism light, buoyant, and lyrical, there's Bohuslav Martinu's prewar music. And for those who like their modernism big, bold yet still lyrical, there's Martinu's postwar music. On this 2007 Hyperion disc, the first of four devoted to the Czech composer's complete violin concertos, violinist Bohuslav Matousek with Christopher Hogwood and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra present three wonderful works from both sides of the war: the Concerto for flute, violin, and orchestra from 1936 and the Duo concertante for two violins and orchestra from 1937 plus the Concerto in D major for two violins and orchestra from 1950.
In the second of four Hyperion discs dedicated to the works for violin and orchestra by Czech-French-American-Swiss composer Bohuslav Martinu, violinist Bohuslav Matousek with Christopher Hogwood and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra join two of the composer's typically atypical works: the Concerto da camera for violin with string orchestra, piano and percussion and the Concerto for violin and piano with orchestra.