The music of Frank Martin is most often characterized by exquisite craftsmanship, intelligence, subtlety, a tonal language that is neither overtly modernist nor overtly Romantic, and a finely calibrated but reserved, chaste expressiveness, which are not attributes likely to create wild popularity with broad audiences. For his admirers, though, his voice has a potent individuality and emotional depths that engender fierce loyalty, and this album should be like catnip for them. Its attractive program adds to its appeal; it includes an alternate, rarely heard version of his most popular work, Petite symphonie concertante arranged for full orchestra as Symphonie concertante; a genuine rarity, the suite from his opera Der Sturm, based on The Tempest, for baritone and orchestra, and Six Monologues from "Jedermann" for baritone and orchestra, with a text by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The last two pieces are among the composer's most emotionally charged, and Dutch baritone Thomas Oliemans is an ideal interpreter, singing with passionate expressiveness and acute sensitivity to the nuances of text and music. His youthful voice is full, warm, rounded, and secure throughout his range. The tantalizing music from Der Sturm leaves the listener eager to hear more of the opera. Martin arranged his Petite symphonie concertante for full orchestra 1946, thinking it would have wider appeal in a more conventional orchestration, but it is the original that has gained traction in the repertoire. While it may not have the distinctive incisiveness of the original, this version is rewarding on its own terms and it's good to hear his final thoughts on the piece, especially since it is played so infrequently. American conductor Steven Sloane leads the Norwegian Stavanger Symphony Orchestra in disciplined but lively and urgent performances that are beautifully attuned to Martin's subtle orchestration and his idiosyncratic sense of musical development. MDG's natural acoustics are, as is typical for the company, clean, vibrant, and present.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Suite from the opera "Der Sturm", for baritone & orchestra|
|Six Monologues from "Jedermann", for baritone solo & orchestra|
|Symphonie Concertante, for orchestra|