Born in 1890 to a pastor in Geneva, Frank Martin is regarded as one of the foremost Swiss composers of the 20th century. As a student he showed a predilection for the music of J.S. Bach and César Franck. His career started to flourish in Paris, Rome and Zurich, after which he returned to his native city, where he taught theory and chamber music and also carved a reputation as an excellent pianist and harpsichordist. By the year of his demise in 1974 Martin had amassed a considerable number of works in practically all musical genres. His Ballades for several solo instruments and orchestra and the oratorio "Golgotha" are perhaps his most performed pieces, but the larger part of his output includes several well-crafted pieces that deserve closer attention.
The three works on this disc are prime examples of his consummate skill as a composer, and the "Symphonie Concertante" in particular, with its intricate dialogue between the different sections of the orchestra, is highly appealing. premièred in May 1946, this work spread Martin's fame abroad. The Suite from his opera "The Tempest" (1956) includes a binary overture and three excerpts for baritone and orchestra. This music not only portrays the composer's ability to write effectively and descriptively, but also features Martin's strong sense of characterization. The six Monologues date from 1944/45 and are based on the 16th century English morality play "Everyman" after an adaptation by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In these 6 short pieces, also for baritone and orchestra, Martin fuses with great mastery the various resources of chromatic harmony with an assortment of melodic forms, thus giving the work a certain uniformity despite its openness and indefinite style.
Performances are wholly involving and vibrant, while the SACD sound, notes and presentation are in the best MD&G tradition.
Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech