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Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Violin Concerto (1950-51) [31:06]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1966-67) [22:04]
Wolfgang Schneiderhan (violin)
Paul Badura-Skoda (piano)
Orchestra Symphonique de la Radio Luxembourg/Frank Martin
rec. 1971, Luxembourg, ADD
originally issued on LP Candide CE 31055, New York
JECKLIN DISCO JD 632-2 [53:37]

There will always be a place for these recordings. For many of the vinyl generation this coupling was their introduction to Martin. It was issued on Decca associates, Candide and Turnabout. The recordings are classics because they feature the composer conducting and in the case of the piano concerto the dedicatee as soloist. While the Violin Concerto was premiered in Basle in 1952 by Hans-Heinz Schneeberger with Sacher conducting, it was Schneiderhan who took the concerto to his heart and performed it repeatedly. Perhaps the orchestra was not in the first league but the results remain impressive.

This classic coupling seemed generously timed back in the LP 1970s; now it's parsimonious looked at purely in grocer-like bucks per minute mode. The fact is though that if you have any serious interest in Martin's severe almost puritan approach to the world of emotion you must have this. The composer may have been 81 at the sessions but he knew these works as Creator (a word his Christian convictions might have shrank from) and they were, at the time, respectively two decades and half a decade old.

The Violin Concerto No. 2 is amongst Martin's least severe and sober works - especially in the lengthy first of three movements. The subdued Martin genome rises in strength though in the middle movement which contrasts with the Ravel-like barely contained spectral excitement of its predecessor. Written five years after the end of the War its elegiac mood may find its roots in that conflict. Schneiderhan's forthright way with the solo line in the finale recalls Rawsthorne's contemporaneous First Concerto. The piece ends in a roaringly unequivocal blaze of triumph.

The work has been recorded quite a few times such are its attractions. Paul Kling's version on Louisville First Edition is excellent. Dene Olding's on ABC Classics is occluded by the dry acoustic of Monash Hall. Decca's recording of Schneiderhan and Ansermet is very good.

The dedication is to Paul Sacher. It was commissioned by the Pro Helvetia Foundation.

The Second Piano Concerto is from the mid 1960s when Martin's own undogmatic brand of 12 tone writing had a firm grip. It is brilliant, sometimes dissonant, masterfully orchestrated - note the superb saxophone solo in the first movement which is then appropriated by solo trumpet and clarinet.

These are authoritative performances carrying the imprimatur of the composer. The performances are alive with brilliance and fantasy defying any suspicion about an elderly infirm composer. I suspect that much preparation went into these sessions such is the polish and, strangely enough, the spontaneity of the performances.

The Piano Concerto is the tougher of the two nuts to crack but neither work is forbidding and the Violin Concerto is richly sewn, full of glancing and ricocheting blows of inspiration.

The Luxembourg orchestra is not a luxury instrument although the real evidence of this can be heard only in the less than voluptuous tone of the massed violins; not that Martin uses them that frequently.

The otherwise extremely good notes by R D Darrell have been superseded in their claims about the neglect of the First Piano Concerto. It has been recorded twice - once by Benda on ASV and once by Antonioli on Jecklin.

Not in the first flush but certainly fascinating and authoritative recordings for the Martin enthusiast. You do not know these concertos thoroughly until you have heard this disc.

Rob Barnett



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