COMPOSERS: Frank Martin
LABELS: MDG Scene
ALBUM TITLE: Martin Concertos
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Concerto for seven wind instruments; Danse de la peur
PERFORMER: Michael Erxleben, Adrienne Soos, Ivo Haag, Winterthur Musikkollegium Orchestra, Jac van Steen
CATALOGUE NO: 9011289
It’s mystifying that Frank Martin’s Violin Concerto isn’t better known. Composed in the early 1950s at a time when the Swiss composer was intensively engaged upon writing his great Shakespeare opera Der Sturm (The Tempest), the work has a truly magical aura and effects a compositional mastery that is worthy of the finest 20th-century examples of the genre. This new excellently engineered recording from violinist Michael Erxleben serves the music admirably and benefits from superbly attentive instrumental detail from the Winterthur orchestra under Jac van Steen. In almost every respect, it provides a more involving experience than the rival recording from violinist Dene Olding on ABC.
Van Steen puts his impressive orchestral players through their paces in the two other works. The relatively early and surprisingly astringent Danse de la peur is delivered here with particular urgency and menace from duo pianists Adrienne Soós and Ivo Haag. By contrast, the approach to the spiky, somewhat Stravinskian outer movements of the Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments is more playful, though a sense of anxiety is never far from the surface. Perhaps Matthias Bamert probes this aspect of the work more effectively in his 1994 Chandos recording, particularly in the weary trudging funereal rhythm of the slow movement. The disadvantage, however, is that Bamert’s tempos for the outer movements seem too deliberate and the solo wind players of the LPO are not quite as exuberant as their Swiss colleagues. For this reason, the present recording and programme serves as an admirable introduction to the music of a seriously underrated composer. Erik Levi