Martin: Der Sturm (The Tempest)

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Der Sturm (The Tempest)
PERFORMER: Robert Holl, Christine Buffle, Ethan Herschenfeld, Josef Wagner, James Gilchrist, Andreas Macco, Simon O’Neill, Marcel Beekman, Dennis Wilgenhof, Roman Sadnik, André Morsch, Thomas Oliemans; Netherlands Radio Choir & PO/Thierry Fischer

Music is central to the very fabric of Shakespeare’s late masterpiece The Tempest, so it is hardly surprising that this play has inspired more operas than any other Shakespearian work. Along with Thomas Adès’s recent setting, Frank Martin’s version may yet prove lasting: this welcome new recording is our first chance to assess the full work, which disappeared from the stage around a decade after its 1956 Vienna premiere.
Often drawn to the theatre, the Swiss composer shaped his only full opera with complete assurance. Der Sturm is usually described (if at all) as austere, presumably on account of the Schoenbergian elements that combine with a Debussy-like fluency to create Martin’s highly personal musical language. But that would be to reckon without the lively, syncopated music for the Italian nobles or the ethereal effects evoking Ariel, a danced character whose music is conjured up by a chorus with strangely woven accompaniments. Thierry Fischer controls all the elements with a sure hand in this recording with a strong cast, including Robert Holl (Prospero), Christine Buffle (Miranda), James Gilchrist (Antonio) and Simon O’Neill (Ferdinand). John Allison