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CD Review

Philip Martin

Orchestral Works

  • Piano Concerto #2
  • Harp Concerto
  • Beato Angelico
Philip Martin, piano
Andréja Malir, harp
National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Kasper de Roo
Marco Polo 8.223834 DDD 61:09
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This release is part of Marco Polo's "Irish Composer Series". It is an important issue because these are première recordings of worthwhile works in fine performances. The piano concerto is perhaps the strongest of the trio, producing an admixture of the light and the profound, the gloomy and the colorful. One might view it as a counterpart to the Vaughan Williams Symphony #2, A London Symphony, for here composer Martin depicts Dublin, its nocturnal peace and awakening, its hustle and bustle, its return at the close to quiet, thereby following a similar pattern of descriptive writing. I'm not suggesting that Martin's style is imitative of that of Vaughan Williams: his music seems at times to show the unlikely influence of Peter Mennin, and there are hints of Bartók and Martinů, as well. But this Irish composer manages to carve out his own niche and serves up a twenty-two minute concerto that ought to appeal to both listener and artist. The performance? When the composer sits at the piano and possesses an imposing technique, you know you're hearing what one can dare call definitive.

In the Harp Concerto, the influence of Stravinsky is evident, especially in the Rondo second movement. Note: this is a two-movement work, but the back cover of the CD suggests three. The work otherwise sounds, in its sparse scoring, in its ethereal demeanor, in its Celtic gloom and color, like the Martin of the Second Piano Concerto. True, it is a little more lyrical and tuneful, and will appeal more strongly at first, but the Stravinskyisms and somewhat threadbare material conspire to keep the work a rung or so below its sibiling. Andréja Malir plays with complete conviction and seduces the ear with her delicate, gossamer treatment of the main theme, much of the passage work and in the Rondo's long cadenza. This is playing of the highest artistry.

Beato Angelico is an eight-and-a-half minute orchestral work that was inspired by three paintings by Fra Angelico. It is atmospheric in its scoring and not an inconsequential bonus. The orchestra and Maestro de Roo acquit themselves well in all three works, and the sound is excellent throughout. Very informative notes by the composer round out this fine release.

Copyright © 1998, Robert Cummings