Martin's Fine Harpsichord Concerto Returns to the Catalogue
Nicholas A. Deutsch | New York, NY USA | 02/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The third CD of music by the great Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974) from the Musikkollegium Winterthur under Jac van Steen maintains the high standards of the first two. It's particularly welcome as it brings back to the catalogue the Concerto for Harpsichord and Small Orchestra, absent since the disappearance of the composer-led performance on Jecklin. It was the fourth and last concertante work that Martin composed between 1949 and 1952, all masterpieces (the others; Ballade for Cello, Concerto for 7 Wind Instruments, Violin Concerto). Here he uses a reduced orchestra so as not to overpower the soloist; the textures are delicate, looking ahead to the onstage ensemble that will accompany the air spirit Ariel in his opera based on The Tempest, his next work. But it's not a particularly light or playful piece, although the second movement has a typically mysterious, even magical aura; there is a restless, alomst driven quality to much of the music. (Small wonder that Kenneth MacMillan used the piece for Las Hermanas, his dance version of Lorca's stark play The House of Bernarda Alba.) The solo part is fearsomely difficult, and here Rudolf Scheidegger plays the spots off it. Great to have a fine recording of this work available!
This is the 7th recording of Polyptyque: Six Passiontide Pictures (1973) to come my way; the first, the composer-supervised version with dedicatee Yehudi Menuhin as violin soloist, is due to be reissued as part of an EMI twofer. That is indispensible, as is the recent ECM reading by Muriel Cantereggi. This is another strong version, with Willi Zimmermann a sensitive soloist. How gratifying it is to see this profound and ultimately uplifting product of Martin's "Indian Summer" gradually make its way onto the list of his better-known works through performances of this quality.
Finally, the 1944 Passacaglia, heard in its 1952 version for string orchestra. (The ECM CD has the 1962 version for full orchestra.) In any of its versions, a beautiful. meditative piece. All in all, another winner for van Steen and co., and for MDG. Recommended."