Frank Martin was a Swiss composer who spent much of his life
in the Netherlands. His musical language
combines the influences of Schoenberg and Bach with a successful
fusion of modern and traditional techniques and melodic shaping.
His works are not particularly well known, but the music on
this beautifully presented ECM disc is likely to encourage the
listener to seek out more of Martin’s works.
– Six images de la Passion du Christ
for solo violin and two string orchestras was one of Martin’s
last works. It was perhaps written in tribute to the heavy
influence of Bach’s St Matthew Passion which had been
a constant presence in his life since he first heard the work
at the age of twelve. Each of the six movements represents
an image from the scenes of the Passion. Image des Rameaux
takes its material from the opening five notes, the imitative
writing bringing to mind Bach’s counterpoint, but with a suggestion
of Hindemith. The quick angular writing is tempered by floating
violin lines. The breathtaking Image de la Chamber haute,
representing the Last Supper develops a mournful violin solo
which demands to be heard. The third movement, Image de
Juda is energetic and rhythmically
defined, forming a contrast with the surrounding material.
Image de Géthsémané provides
an opportunity to enjoy the fabulous violin playing of Muriel
Cantoreggi in an extended solo with
unobtrusive orchestral accompaniment joining her later in
the movement. The biting fifth movement, Image du
Jugement is one of the most
aggressive, with striking off-beat chords and gritty harmonies.
The finale, Image de la Glorification brings the work
to a luminescent close. There are some deeply expressive,
beautiful moments, with wonderfully satisfying harmonies and
wandering violin lines. Muriel Cantoreggi’s
playing is stunning and further enhances the emotional impact
of this fantastic work.
Maria-Triptychon uses soprano, violin and orchestra in three movements.
Composed for the married couple Irmgard
Seefried and Wolfgang Schneiderhan
in 1967-68, it is once again based on religious meanings.
The movements are entitled Ave Maris,
Magnificat and Stabat
Mater. The soprano line adds a dramatic dimension to the
orchestration. Juliane Banse’s
voice is dark and velvety, its tone blending well with the
orchestra and solo violin. The stillness of the opening movement
is contrasted against the bustling instrumental writing opening
the second, with dazzling soprano and violin proclamations
floating above the orchestra. The momentum varies throughout
the movement, keeping a sense of drama and direction leading
to the final motionless bars. The final movement deals with
the end of Christ’s life. The musical language used to introduce
it is more angular, with hypnotic repeated gestures and a
return to the material of the work’s opening at the end. This
is a faultless recording, which intoxicates with every passing
Passacaille uses a traditionally
baroque structural technique and is heard here as an orchestration
of the 1944 organ original. The form gives an unconscious
unity to the material, without ever becoming monotonous or
staid. Martin’s inventions work on many levels and this is
a piece which ends with an enormous sense of satisfaction
and completeness. The orchestration is masterfully handled
and gives a wonderful aura of space and colour to the work.
playing on this disc is consistently brilliant, from the soloists,
the conductor and the orchestra alike. ECM has delivered an
extremely high quality product which deserves recognition.
Frank Martin would be justly proud.
see also Review
by Dominy Clements