Huttenlocher shows his mettle from the beginning. He
is called on to start the work unaccompanied. His voice is steady as
wrought iron - deep and Biblical (Old Testament of course). In fact
he would make a great soloist in Belshazzar's Feast or in Schmidt's
Das Buch mit Sieben Siegeln. Although there is no choir the atmosphere
is in common with much of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder.
The baritone is required to carry the whole narrative
as well as shifting perspective from narrator to character from section
to section. Martin orchestration can emulate that of Edmund Rubbra.
In this case the composer transcends this reputation. For example in
Tag durch den tross and Der schrei he vividly conjures
up a dissolute and murderous landscape. In the former the steely brilliance
of the scoring suggests the composer had heard some Shostakovich. The
last time I heard such a fine evocation of rapacious war was in the
section of Milhaud's radio tableaux Christophe Colomb in which
the One Hundred Years War is depicted.
The exhaustion and soul-tiredness of war even infects
the Rast movement although it is defied in Das fest with
the sort of halcyon intoxication that strides with bravado through Mahler's
Das trunkene im frühling where the brimming cup jostles
with a desperate walztraum. Desperation and doomed resignation round
out the cycle as the Cornet of the title is slain by sabres in a ‘laughing
fountain’ of blood.
This set is well documented with biographical profiles
of the artists including the conductor Robert Dunand (1928-1991) who
founded the Collegium Academicum. One criticism is that although a translation
into French and English is provided with the sung German text, these
translations are in separate sections of the booklet. The smarter layout
would have been to present the translations side by side with the original.
Frank Martin's own notes are reproduced with sections of a longer piece
by Frank Meylan. The work is dedicated, as are so many works, to Paul
This is a live performance betrayed by an isolated
cough, a brass fluff in 0.14 of track 4 and some sincere applause from
an audience that does not sound all that numerous.
Huttenlocher will be the envy of baritones the world