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
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
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.