Ernest Ansermet’s complete Decca recordings of Frank Martin.
The Swiss conductor regarded his countryman Frank Martin as one of the two great composers of his time. He rejected the atonal system of music as ‘without musical meaning’ and even, late in life, turned against Igor Stravinsky, whom he had championed earlier in his career. In a 1962 interview, he claimed that only Martin and Benjamin Britten were composing masterpieces: they ‘do as well as they can in a troubled historical situation’.
Ansermet was true to his word in both performing and recording the major works of Martin. On CD1 of this anthology are authoritative, superbly animated accounts of the composer’s neo-classically structured instrumental masterpieces, the Petite symphonie concertante and the Concerto for seven wind instruments, timpani, percussion and string orchestra, as well as the less-often heard Études for string orchestra. CD2 opens with the Violin Concerto which Martin dedicated to the soloist on this recording, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and the set is completed with Martin’s wartime oratorio In terra pax.
Ansermet gave the first performance of the oratorio in 1945, and he remains the most powerful advocate on record of this yearning plea for peace in desperately troubled times. This music was, in the words of the conductor, ‘the expression of a faith; not because Martin set religious texts, among other things, to music – one can also do that without faith, and conversely, faith can be expressed in a fugue – but because if an impetus goes beyond simple symmetry, if it expands, and acquires a new momentum, it is because it is supported by a faith – and this is how Frank Martin’s music behaves all the time, just like the music of Bach and Handel.’
1–3 Concerto for seven wind instruments, timpani, percussion and string orchestra
4–8 Études for string orchestra
9–11 Petite Symphonie Concertante
Pierre Jamet, harp · Doris Rossiaud, piano · Germaine Vaucher-Clerc, harpsichord
1–3 Violin Concerto
Wolfgang Schneiderhan, violin
4–14 In Terra Pax
Ursula Buckel, soprano · Marga Höffgen, contralto · Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Pierre Mollet, baritone · Jakob Stämpfli, bass
L’Union Chorale de la Tour de Peilz · Chœur des Dames de Lausanne
Robert Mermoud, chorus master
L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Recording Producers: Michael Bremner, Erik Smith (Concerto for seven wind instruments, Études); Victor Olof (Petite Symphonie Concertante); Victor Olof, James Walker (Violin Concerto); Michael Bremner (In Terra Pax)
Balance Engineers: Roy Wallace (Concerto for seven wind instruments, Études); Arthur Haddy (Petite Symphonie Concertante); Gil Went, Roy Wallace (Violin Concerto); James Lock (In Terra Pax)
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, March 1951 (Petite Symphonie Concertante), 9–11 May 1955 (Violin Concerto), 30 September–15 November 1961 (Concerto for seven wind instruments, Études), September–October 1963 (In Terra Pax)
Original Decca LP Releases: SXL 2311 (Concerto for seven wind instruments, Études); LXT 2631 (Petite Symphonie Concertante); LX 3146 (Violin Concerto); SXL 6098 (In Terra Pax)
Eloquence Series Producer: Cyrus Meher-Homji
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