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Frank Martin / The Sixteen


Release Date: 03/15/2005 
Label:  Coro   Catalog #: 16029   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frank Martin
Performer:  Sally Bruce-PayneMargaret PhillipsHelen VerneySimon Birchall
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The main act on this release is the stunning Mass for Double Choir of 1922, a work that inhabits my musicological mind much in the same way as does Stravinsky’s equally focused and exquisitely detailed Mass setting of 1948. In all the music on this offering, Martin reminds me of the proverbial Swiss watchmaker—ultra-fastidious in terms of the purely practical demands of his craft, unfailingly resourceful, and always informed with an underlying sense of adventure and whimsy that quietly spurs him to push the envelope in quite moving, and sometimes quite unexpectedly ingratiatingly ways.

The Sixteen, under Harry Christopher’s direction, has over the years distinguished itself in its innumerable forays into the music of the
Read more Renaissance and the Baroque periods. Their performances of, among other things, Handel’s Chandos Anthems have long established them as worthy and illuminating additions to my personal discography. Here they make their way into the treacherous waters of the 20th century, and swim both confidently and satisfyingly.

Martin’s Mass is an intricate work for two SATB choruses, often antiphonally deployed. Precision in intonation and articulation are prerequisites, and here they are satisfied in typical fashion. This offering comes into competition with a fine Harmonia Mundi release of the same piece by the RIAS Kammerchor under Daniel Reuss (HMC 901834). The Sixteen started out as sixteen singers (here augmented to 24). The RIAS Kammerchor weighs in at 32. The difference is, on a number of levels, noteworthy. The Sixteen’s recording is brighter and airier, focusing more on the sopranos and altos. The Harmonia Mundi effort provides a more evenly balanced sound. The result is that the RIAS recording brings more of the underlying melancholy and pathos of the piece to the fore. The Sixteen, however, especially in such passages as the Credo’s “Et ressurrexit,” brings a sense of affirmation and luminous joy. Which do I prefer? It depends on my mood. The same can be said for Songs of Ariel that inhabits both discs. At that point, the Harmonia Mundi release diverges, presenting Messiaen’s Cinq rechants and O sacrum convivium to round off its content.

The chansons from both 1931 and 1944 are the real sleepers on this release. They are, and bracingly folkish, in their wide array of fragrances and flavors—in an oblique way reminding me of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne—and are, alone, quite worth the price of admission.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

1.
Gesänge (5) des Ariel by Frank Martin
Performer:  Sally Bruce-Payne (Alto)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 11 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: English 
2.
Mass for Double Chorus by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 26 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is sung in Greek and Latin.
Composition written: Switzerland (1922).
Composition revised: Switzerland (1926). 
3.
Cantate pour le 1er août by Frank Martin
Performer:  Margaret Phillips (Organ)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Language: French 
4.
Janeton by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Language: French 
5.
Petite église by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: French 
6.
Si Charlotte avait voulu by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Language: French 
7.
Sonnet by Frank Martin
Performer:  Helen Verney (Cello)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Language: French 
8.
Le coucou by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Language: French 
9.
Ode by Frank Martin
Performer:  Helen Verney (Cello)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Language: French 
10.
Le petit village by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: French 
11.
Ode à la musique by Frank Martin
Performer:  Simon Birchall (Baritone)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; Switzerland 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Highgate, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: French 

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