Martin: Symphonie; Symphonie concertante; Passacaglia

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Martin
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphonie; Symphonie concertante; Passacaglia
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9312 DDD
Although both the first two works here are premier recordings, the real novelty is the Symphony. The Symphonie concertante is none other than Martin’s best-known work, the Petite symphonie concertante, in the composer’s own version for full orchestra (though the packaging and notes are rather cagey about this fact). It is splendidly performed, but the massed ranks of wind and brass in the concertante roles are no substitute for the original’s unique solo trio of piano, harpsichord and harp.

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Far more ‘authentic’, the Symphony proper is also much more distinctively scored, with important roles for percussion, piano and (particularly effectively) saxophone. This work is a real discovery: its thematic ideas – many twelve-tone, though one would rarely sense it – are strikingly memorable, as are the harmonies, the whole epitomising the Swiss composer’s position astride the temperamental divide between Teutonic and Gallic – symphonic strength versus impressionist colour.

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As with the Symphonie concertante, Bamert directs a thrillingly engaging performance, and the London Philharmonic sounds totally involved. The playing is confident and Bamert gives his compatriot’s music a real sense of direction and dramatic thrust. The recorded sound is up to Chandosbest, benchmark standard. Matthew Rye