WORKS: Petite symphonie concertante; Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion and Strings; Passacaille
PERFORMER: Geneva CO/Thierry Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: DCCD 012
A useful assemblage of instrumental works by the prominent Swiss composer (1890-1974) presented in clear and responsive sound. What is probably Martin’s masterpiece, the Petite symphonie concertante of 1944-5, is heard here in its original form: in 1946 he rescored it for full orchestra, dropping the word ‘Petite’ from the title. It’s teamed with the Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani and Percussion of 1949, and the Passacaille of 1944, originally written for organ, in a version made ten years later for string orchestra (a third version exists, for full orchestra, dating from 1962).
The music’s eclecticism adds to its ‘Age of Anxiety’ period-feel, neo-classical elements co-existing with a language deriving from some of Martin’s heavyweight contemporaries – Bartók, Hindemith, Schoenberg and Shostakovich. At best, the musical discussion is well-argued; at worst it can descend into dogged anonymity.
But in these cogent and sympathetic performances all three pieces demonstrate a refined ear for sonority – especially in the unusual combinations of the concertante symphony, where the harp, harpsichord and piano soloists enmesh into and separate out from two small string ensembles. George Hall