Martin's Best Works on One CD
Christopher Forbes | Brooklyn,, NY | 05/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD is probably the best introduction to the work of Swiss composer Frank Martin that you can ever find. The Petite Symphonie Concertante is one of the great masterpieces of mid 20th century music. The Violin Concerto is exquisite. In Terra Pax is a deeply moving choral work, the Concerto for Seven Instruments is strong and the Etudes are quite interesting. And at the price, this is not one to pass up at all. Martin is a fascinating amalgam of influences. On the surface his music seems perched between the French neoclassicists and the Viennese School. The melos of the works is steeped in a densely chromatic style with considerable debt to 12 tone music, and yet the harmonic world is often triadic, and almost always tonal. And Martin has an ear for sonority that is distinctly French. But under these surface influences lies a much deeper connection with Bach, Haydn and Mozart. Martin is perhaps one of the most classic of neo-classicists. And he wears his influence proudly without ever sounding tired or derivative.The Concerto for Seven Instruments, Percussion and Strings is a modern take on the concerto grosso and as such shows its baroque roots rather well. The first movement is tense, the second sustained and lyrical and the work builds to an exciting conclusion. The string etudes are equally fine, though not particularly deeply moving. The Petite Symphonie Concertante is the stunner of this group. Written for strings with a continuo of piano, harp and harpsichord, the piece sounds like a modernization of the Fifth Brandenburg. Martin's orchestral ear is marvelous in the piece. Particularly stunning is the deeply felt slow movement. Melodies are exposed by each of the continuo instruments while being accompanied by strummed triads on one of the other instruments. The movement builds beautifully and finds ultimate release in the driving finale. The Violin concerto is a wonderful work as well. It features a dark and lugubrious first movement, another shining slow movement, and a virtuoso finale. The final work on the disc, In Terra Pax, was written to celebrate the secession of hostilities after the Second World War. The texts consist of prophetic passages from the Old Testament which transition to uplifting, hopeful New Testament passages. It is a wonderful choral work and deserves a place in the repertoire. Performance and sound on this CD is excellent. Ansermet was the composer's chief support and champion so the interpretations have the ring of authority. And at a twofer price, this should be a no-brain decision. Martin's music is modern and rigorous, but without tears. A highly recommended disc."
Exquisite and mysterious works by a great composer
the_drone | 06/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love the music of the Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974). He has a distinctive musical personality and he, more than anyone I know, has been able to bring together the orchestral textures of impressionism, the rythmic alertness of Stravinsky and some of the lessons of atonality in a seamless fashion. The Petite Symphonie Concertante, for the unholy combination of harpsichord and harp, is well known, but he also composed a beautiful Requiem, a Mass for Double Choir (available in a beautiful recording on Hyperion), a fascinating song cycle called Six Monologues for Everyman, and some exquisite orchestral works, such as the Concerto for 7 Wind Instruments, his Etudes for Orchestra, and the intensely beautiful Polyptique for violin solo and two string orchestras--a work from the 70s which was wonderfully recorded by DG in 1992, in expressive and perfect performances by Thierry Fischer and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and now appears to be out of print. Like Janacek, Martin is a composer who found his own language late in life and seemed to grow younger the older he got. Among his last works was "Poemes de la mort", a setting of ballades by Villon for three tenors and three electric guitars! His music is intellectualy satisfying, to say the least. His shorter works are often paired with those by Honegger and Martinu's. This very good anthology contains the first recording of the Petite Symphonie Concertante conducted by Ernest Ansermet, and the beautiful Violin Concerto performed by Schneiderhan, in what must be considered a definitive performance (it has not been matched since), among other works. Martin was a very religious, very spiritual man, and even his instrumental works evoke a sense of mystery and spiritual devotion. This set deserves five stars for the quality of the works and the performances, but prospective buyers should know that these are all recordings from the 50's and 60's, and some concessions must be made for the quality of the sound, particularly for the Petite Symphonie Concertante, recorded in 1951."
Essential Works, Classic Performances, Bargain Price
Nicholas A. Deutsch | New York, NY USA | 06/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set brings together 6 of Frank Martin's most beautiful works of the 1940s and 50s, nearly 21/2 hours of some of the finest, most directly communicative music of the past century. There are 5 orchestral works plus his 1st great oratorio, In Terra Pax, composed (on New Testament texts) to celebrate the end of World War II. All but 1 of the performances are under the direction of his great champion, Ernest Ansermet; the 6th, the 1952 string orchestra version of the 1944 Passacaglia for organ, is conducted by its dedicatee, Karl Muenchinger. These are classic versions in every sense. Don't hesitate because 3 of the recordings are in mono: this "basic" collection is a great place to begin finding out why Martin's music is so beloved and admired by those who know it. (If you want a stereo version of his most famous work, the Petite Symphonie Concertante - for harp, harpsichord & piano with double string orchestra - try Edmond de Stoutz's 1992 one on Gallo CD-713, coupled with the finest recent version of Martin's late masterpiece Polyptyque & the early, charmingly wistful Pavane couleur du temps.) Excellent notes, full French-English text for In Terra Pax. Thank you, Decca/London, for keeping this in the catalogue."