Martin: Concerto for seven wind instruments, percussion and strings; Studies for string orchestra; Erasmi monumentum

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COMPOSERS: Martin
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Concerto for seven wind instruments, percussion and strings; Studies for string orchestra; Erasmi monumentum
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9283 DDD
Chandos’s enterprising pursuit of the unfamiliar has led it to the Swiss composer Frank Martin, who died twenty years ago. His music combines neo-classical rhythmic verve with a French sense of colour and Germanic intensity, and is well-handled by his compatriot Matthias Bamert. The Concerto for seven wind instruments (1949) has lively outer movements framing a slow procession which builds to a weighty climax. The Studies (written in 1955-6 for the great Swiss conductor Paul Sacher) are designed to tax string technique to the full. No. 2 (for pizzicato) is especially witty, No. 3 (for expression and sostenuto) conjures rich textures from violas and cellos, while the dotted rhythms of the overture recall the opening of Stravinsky’s Apollo as much as earlier French models.

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Erasmi monumentum (1969), for organ and orchestra, is the least familiar piece here: it would be difficult to deny a decline in quality from the earlier works, though the central movement ‘Stulticiae laus’ (In praise of folly) is intriguing. The London Philharmonic plays well throughout, though it can’t compete with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe’s brilliant renditions of the Concerto and Studies under Thierry Fischer. That DG recording also benefits from more exciting sound than this rather distantly-recorded Chandos disc. Stephen Maddock