Swiss composer Frank Martin’s exceptional symphonic works are finally given the recordings they deserve on this debut ECM album by the new German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under Christoph Poppen. Violinist Muriel Cantoreggi soars over two string orchestras on the radiant Polyptique and answers the beautiful soprano of Juliane Banse on the moving Maria-Tripytchon.
“All three works on this superbly performed and warmly recorded disc attest to Frank Martin's lifelong passion for the music of Bach.” ***** BBC Music Magazine
“Polyptyque is one of Martin's most impressive scores, with its impassioned lyricism held, as if in liquid suspension, by the cooler instrumental textures of solo violin and double string orchestra and the inner drama of its sequence of depictions from the Passion story. The alternating fast and slow movements cover by turns Christ's entry into Jerusalem (listen to the seething string textures representing the palm-waving crowd), the Last Supper, Judas, Gethsemane, Christ's scourging and – rather than Calvary – his glorification.
There is a link to the Maria-Triptychon (1967- 68) through the latter's finale, a setting of the 'Stabat mater dolorosa'. This triptych for soprano, violin and orchestra was written for the husband-and-wife duo of Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Irmgard Seefried, and opens with dovetailed settings of the Ave Maria and Magnificat, the latter forming an impressive, intense climax (ECM does not provide the texts in the booklet).
Unlike Polyptyque, however, Maria-Triptychon is a work that needs concentrated listening to secure its full impression.
The Passacaglia Martin wrote in 1944 for organ and orchestrated richly 18 years later has become one of his better-known works. Here, his devotion to Bach's music is made manifest in sound with organ-like sonorities surviving the transcription and a gripping Busonian power.
Poppen directs hugely impressive performances from his excellent soloists and orchestra. ECM's sound is, as usual, crystal clear and superb. A winner.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide
“Electrifying performances of three of Frank Martin's finest scores.” Gramophone