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Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1950) [29:36]
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1965) [24:17]
Stephen Kates, cello; Paul Kling, violin
Louisville Orchestra/Robert Whitney, Jorge Mester
rec. 1963, 1973, Louisville, Kentucky.


Rather like mid/late-period Piston the music of the Swiss composer Frank Martin is not associated with surface display and empty brilliance. There is an affirmatory integrity and humanity in its place.

Martinís detail-bejewelled Violin Concerto instantly proclaims the influence of Ravel. The orchestra enters and later returns with a calmly stalking theme over which the violin later sings at 12:10 in I. Prokofiev is an occasional visitor as at 5:20 in the first movement - where the Russianís First Violin Concerto must certainly have hovered in the composerís mind as he wrote. The work bristles with an affluence of ideas and a warm yet dreamy urgency - ever so slightly angular, bony but connected to the lyricism of a Prokofiev and sometimes of a Beethoven as at 9:25 in I. In the second movement the sense of wandering in a moonlit surreal landscape is strong. This is like a concerto that stepped out of Ravelís Mother Goose music and seems to confide in the listener..

The Violin Concerto was premiered by Hans-Heinz Schneeberger on 25 January 1952 with the Basel Chamber Orchestra. The violinist is Paul Kling who is warm toned without being unctuous. He articulates the fantasy in Martinís writing with great clarity.

Stephen Kates is just as warm-hearted and spirited as Kling. The work opens with cello alone singing an impassioned theme which in its intensity links with Blochís Schelomo. A burnished seriousness also pervades the second movement - and do I also detect a nostalgic strain there as well? The concentration of both soloist and orchestra especially in the Adagietto central movement is remarkable. The final Vivace is grippingly alive - ruthlessly active and propelled by gritty piano figures ever pushing the music forward and at times seeming to make wholly surprising connections with Shostakovichís wartime symphonies.

The notes are by the composer for the Violin Concerto and by Robert McMahan for the Cello Concerto.

Both recordings, each a world premiere, are in stereo drawn from the original two-track session master tape. The sound, taken down in the Macauley Theater, Louisville, is emphatic yet croons sweetly enough.

Here are two concertos written in a tonal idiom with an intensity that places them alongside the concertos of Rubbra and in the case of the violin work share a soul with Ravelís faerie fantasy.

Rob Barnett

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