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Frank MARTIN (1890-1972)
Concerto for Harpsichord and Small Orchestra (1951/52)
Ballade for Trombone and Orchestra (1940)
Ballade for Piano and Orchestra (1939)
Christine Jaccottet (harpsichord)
Armin Rosin (trombone)
Sebastian Benda (piano)
Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne/Frank Martin
Recorded 1971. ADD
JECKLIN DISCO JD 529-2 [46.58]


Itís not just Schoeck;. Jecklin, the inveterate Swiss trufflers, have done a huge amount for him, itís true, but they have won their spurs in the Martin discography as well, as this latest release demonstrates. Not all their discs are chock full, itís true, and this one clocks in well under the fifty minute mark; itís a question I suppose of whatís in the vaults. Rather than be discouraged at a perceived paucity of playing time it will be better to concentrate on the three works here and the fact that all are composer-conducted, fortunately taped the year before his death. This is invaluable and for Martinís admirers there is a moving quotient to these recordings, which seem, from the documentary evidence, to have been recorded by Swiss Radio in Lausanne.

The Harpsichord Concerto is the only post-war work, dating from 1951-52 and is suffused with recollections of a North Sea holiday that Martin took Ė those undulating quavers are really evocative of the waves though not in a way that lazily evokes Debussy. The orchestration is discreet, allowing the harpsichord to be freely heard (the soloist is Bach specialist, the excellent Christine Jaccottet, whom many will recall, not least for her recordings with Grumiaux). The neo-classicism is strong but Martinís ability to slow down material without losing the emotional connective tissue is just as strong. The second part Ė this is a two-part concerto, the second multi-sectional - is haunting. The noble flute and clarinet start it, whilst very high up in the treble the harpsichord glistens with crystalline brilliance.

The Ballade for Trombone and Orchestra of 1940 was written as a Geneva competition test piece and lasts about eight minutes Ė Christian Lindberg has long had it in his repertoire and has recorded it for BIS. The wind choirs here are puckish and at one point imitate a big bandís saxophone section; the music is compact, brilliantly conceived, lyrical, big Ė despite the relative brevity and occasional nature of its origins Ė and full of technical hurdles for the soloist. Talking of whom Armin Rosin is a vibrantly-toned player. The Piano Ballade (1939) is more elliptical, with increasingly organic neo-classical drive and plenty of room for solo passages. Throughout thereís a sense of incipient tension and drama and also of narrative. In the notes, all written by the composer, he does talk in general terms about Villon and about an epic quality in the Ballade but if thereís a specific narrative in mind he doesnít disclose the source here.

Given that he was eighty-one when these performances were recorded they sound incisive and alert though, as ever with Martin, with a fluid sense of momentum: thereís always time to breathe. The tapes are in a healthy state - maybe slightly down on the treble but thatís of little account. Once more Jecklin have flown the Martin flag with character and commitment.

Jonathan Woolf



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