Martin: Le conte de Cendrillon

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Frank Martin
LABELS: Claves
ALBUM TITLE: Martin: Le conte de Cendrillon
WORKS: Le conte de Cendrillon
PERFORMER: Clémance Tilquin, David Hernandez Anfruns, Varduhi Khachatryan, Alexandra Newson; Orchestre de la Haute école de musique de Genève/Gábor Takács-Nagy
CATALOGUE NO: 501202

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Rossini, Massenet and Prokofiev may be the best-known names on a long list of Cinderella settings, but the story has attracted a diverse number of composers. One who is diverse and sometimes unclassifiable even within his own output is the Swiss musician Frank Martin, and this ballet score represents him at his most inventive and engaging.

Inhabiting a rather lush corner of neo-Classicsm, the score is unusual and calls for four singers (three of whom sing more than one character) plus a small orchestra in which piano, trumpet and two saxophones are prominent. Martin’s numbers are short, and all three acts fit onto a single disc.

Despite the title of this disc, the work is performed here in its original German, as it was premiered in Basel in 1942 – the year after his masterpiece, the secular oratorio Le vin herbé – under Paul Sacher. In the world premiere recording, Gábor Takács-Nagy takes up the baton and readily finds the music’s wit, plus some moments of surprisingly intense beauty – for example, the chorus of birds in the penultimate scene. The student forces deliver a lively performance, and though none of the singers is exceptional, the soprano Clémence Tilquin gives a good lead in the title role. In sum, a worthwhile rediscovery, and an unfailingly attractive score.

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John Allison