Martin: Die Weise Von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke

WORKS: Die Weise Von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke
PERFORMER: Christianne Stotijn (contralto), Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur/Jac Van Steen
CATALOGUE NO: 901 1444 (hybrid CD/SACD)
After finishing Le vin herbé, Martin turned to Rilke’s poem, Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christophe Rilke (The Lay – or song – of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke), then scarcely known in the French-speaking world. It didn’t appear in English either until 1948. Rilke had written the poem 50 years earlier when he was 24 in the course of a single night: it was to enjoy enormous success. It tells of a youthful ensign who fell in 1660 under ‘the sabres of the Turks into


an ocean of flowers’, and it inevitably set off some powerful resonances when the 1914-18 war broke out. In later life Rilke thought it ‘highly second-rate’ but there is absolutely nothing second-rate about Frank Martin’s masterly setting. He sets

all but three of the 26 poems and was encouraged by the conductor Paul Sacher to score them for a contralto soloist with a small chamber orchestral resources. It is one of the most powerful and profound song cycles of the last century and unquestionably one of its best-kept secrets.


Few artists can sustain the wide range of colours and expressive devices that it calls for, and the young Dutch singer Christianne Stotijn rises to its demands, though she has an altogether lighter voice than Marijana Lipov?ek who has recorded it on Orfeo. Die Weise is a masterpiece, a very powerful musical experience and this fine account by the Winterthur Orchestra and Jac van Steen serves it well. Good notes but the poems are given in the original without English or French translation. Robert Layton