Jac van Steen / Adrienne Soos and Ivo Haag Piano Duo / Michael Erxleben

Frank Martin: Concertos

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Even though Frank Martin at times experimented with Schoenberg's twelve-tone system, he used the row merely as a modification of his already flexible tonal language. As a result, his Violin Concerto (1950-1951) is smooth and fluid as it drifts between its chromatic, dissonant counterpoint, and overtly tonal passages, for these are derived from the same interval relationships. Most notable about this Concerto, however, is the integral role the violin plays. Martin eschewed virtuosity for its own sake, and reasoned that the solo part must always be an extension of the whole work's material and development, not just an endless cadenza with accompaniment. Consequently, violinist Michael Erxleben has comparatively few opportunities to display his fine technical skills, and must instead let his tone and expression carry the piece along. The polished Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur, conducted by Jac van Steen, is solidly behind Erxleben, and the soloist and orchestra seem evenly balanced in MDG's natural, unprocessed recording. The fairly comical Concerto for 7 wind instruments, timbales, percussion and string orchestra (1949) and the quasi-Impressionistic ballet piece Danse de la peur for two pianos and small orchestra (1936) are pleasant to hear for their vibrant colors, but are perhaps less intellectually and emotionally stimulating than the Violin Concerto.

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