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alternatively Crotchet

Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (1942-43) [57:50]
Christianne Stotijn (contralto)
Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur/Jac van Steen
rec. Stadthaus Winterthur, February 2006†

Martinís song-cycle is one of absolute seriousness of design and purpose and† remains one of the most compelling such works ever written. Itís not lacked for interpreters but in Christianne Stotijn it has found a new champion, one quite worthy to rank beside Marjana Lipovsek whose Orfeo disc with the Austrian Radio Symphony and Lothar Zagrosek projects a rather more overtly atmospheric sound-world.
Stotijnís contralto, a genuine one by the way and thus of considerable rarity value, is put to the test by the fearsome demands Martin puts on it Ė of characterisation and expression as much as matters of technique. Fortunately she displays in the second song, Der Kleine Marquis, one of the most admirable features of her vocal production - flexibility and freedom in the upper register where it retains brightness and body without coarsening. In Wachtfeuer the lower part of her voice is especially well focused. This terse and tensile setting is hard to put across but she does so with conviction and certainty. Itís a marker for the whole performance in fact.
The motoric defiance of Ein Tag durch den Tross is equally well done by the orchestral forces where instrumental deployment either spare Ė as in Reiten Ė or garrulous, as here, shows how adept are the Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur under Jac van Steen. Such things as the surging brass in Spork and the immediate and powerful contrast with the succeeding Der Schrei show that the emotional temperature of these settings has been sensitively calibrated.
When Stotijn needs to deploy near-Wagnerian heft she does so; Das Schloss is elemental in its vivid declamation but note too her care over word placement and dynamics. Without such qualities her singing of Und Einer steht would not be as impressive as it undoubtedly is. Thereís a malleability to her singing, a lightning of tone that is impressive. So too the military orchestral interjections in Ist das der Morgen? and the flaring power of Der Tod.
In fact this is such a fine account that musical reservations are few. The sound is clear, bright and heard in SACD clarity. Only one complaint - there are no translations and that is a blow if you donít have access to the poems. The Lipovsek recording (Orfeo C164 881A) has them as do most other recordings and they are vital for understanding. Only fluent German speakers can survive without them. With that caveat noted this is an admirable recording.
Jonathan Woolf


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