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Martin Concertos

Musikkollegium Winterhur/van Steen with Rudolf Scheidegger (violin)

MDG 901

During the middle decades of the 20th C. the music of Frank Martin (1890-1974) was heard fairly regularly in UK; I remember the Petite Symphonie Concertante as quite popular, and Le Vin Herbé as a cooler-than-Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde". This new release gives a fair introduction to his later orchestral music.

Polyptyque (1973) is a concertante work for violin solo and two string orchestras, composed in response to a commission from Yehudi Menuhin. Not wanting to compete with JSBach, Martin supplied a series of reflections on Duccio panels in Sienna: Six images of the Passion of Christ. They cover the emotions associated with the Passion, with various relationships between the solo and doubled orchestral forces. It is a substantial 6-movment work of c. 26 mins and merits an occasional outing.

More interesting to me was the harpsichord concerto for Isabel Nef of 1951, and this recording has the merit of a truthful balance; the harpsichord is always clear, but there is no disguising that it is quieter than the small orchestra against which it is pitted. The strings version of the Passacaglia is surely less successful than the original for full organ?

Peter Grahame woolf