Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
for piano and orchestra (1939) [16.53]
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1933-34) [20.41]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1968) [22.25]
Danse de la Peur
(1937) [13.17]
Paul Badura-Skoda (piano)
Sebastian Benda (piano) in Danse only
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Christian Benda
rec RSI Auditorium, Lugano, Switzerland, 22-26 June 1999 DDD
co-production with RSI Radio Svizzera de Lingua Italiana, Rete 2.
recorded to mark 25th anniversary of death of Frank Martin

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Martin was no revolutionary yet his music has a hard-won individuality that requires persistence. In some ways he is rather like Rubbra. For Martin, as for his English contemporary, there is no glamour - instead we find rather a sturdy passion. There is some solo piano music, a little chamber music (which includes his easy winner the Trio on Irish Folk Songs - you can hear it on Chandos CHAN9016), at least one opera (on Shakespeare's Tempest), several large choral works and many orchestral pieces with a special leaning towards the Concerto. It is the concertante vein that is surveyed in this tidy release.

The Ballade's hesitant bluesy indeterminacy alternates with the sort of high octane propulsion found in the Ravel G minor. I can imagine Michelangeli or the young Leonard Bernstein making a feast of this; not that Badura-Skoda is anything other than the heart of brilliance. Shostakovich passes in gaudy sustained rhythmic buzz in the last five minutes of the work. The clean strength of the recording is comparable with ASV's wonderfully recorded Linz/Richter Korngold orchestral anthology. The music is not atonal but tonality is allowed slews and swerves. This liberation is even more evident in the Danse de la Peur. Martin dabbled with twelve tones from early 1930s onwards This piece was played by Dinu and Madeleine Lipatti in Geneva in 1944. A stylistic map of the work might well include direction signs towards: Bartók and de Falla. In fact, through the work's sepia half-tints, vividness and verve we glimpse Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Liszt's Totentanz. Sebastian Benda, who joins Badura-Skoda for the Danse, has recorded the complete solo piano works of Frank Martin.

The two piano concertos are separated by thirty-five years. Martin poured into the first movement of the First Concerto a ferocious virtuosity tougher than that found in the Ballade. This is rather like Prokofiev through a fine gauge twelve -tone strainer or comparable with Stravinsky's concerto for piano and woodwind. The Allegro molto finale is a phantasmal call to arms played lickety-split with gallop, scurry and skitter. The midpoint of the work is a Largo with a lyrical cor anglais song suggesting singing sunk fathoms deep. The Second Concerto is likely to be known to some collectors from its issues as a Candide LP or a Swiss CD. It was written for Badura-Skoda and . It is designed to be part symphony and part piano concerto. The with virtuosity is in the Lisztian tradition which also speaks from the inky brilliance of the finale. Note the ruffian suaveness of the saxophone at 1.50. The core Lento makes much play of hooded scalar writing recalling Koppel and Niels Viggo Bentzon. From this emerges the image of a fantastic steely bridge spanning the sky.

There is no competition for this issue. This is the only such collection of the complete music for piano and orchestra. Not music to make blitzkrieg conquests but works of sincere substance and curtained darkened brilliance.

Rob Barnett

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