Kahn, Robert; Martin, Frank
Martin: Ein Totentanz zu Basel im Jahre 1943
Triendl, Oliver;
Vähälä, Elina;
ARMAB Orchestra;
Blomhert, Bastiaan;
nr katalogowy
CPO 777 997-2
Frank Martin was one of the most eminent Swiss composers of all times and along with Arthur Honegger certainly the leading representative of his guild in Francophone Switzerland. Today it is above all in the field of large-format vocal composition that he ranks with the most remarkable composers of the twentieth century. Many texts describing dances of death began being written during the middle years of the fourteenth century. Painters and engravers like Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer depicted this subject. Perhaps the most famous pictorial representation of these danses macabres was produced in Basle. It consisted of thirty-seven pictures painted on the cemetery walls of the local Dominican Monastery beginning in the mid-fifteenth century. Today only nineteen fragments of these paintings survive. In 1943 the pantomime Mariette von Meyenburg asked her uncle Frank Martin to compose the music for a stage performance that would feature the traditional, empathetic, and understanding figure of Death, thereby deliberately opposing the horrors and mass slaughter of World War II. Frank Martin developed a scenario for a professional dancer who would portray Death and for a dozen pantomimes. The »action« consists of eight scenes in which Death meets with individuals whose time is over. They are portrayed by the members of boys' choir and accompanied by a small orchestra. Martin has a large jazz band play the music of the dances of death – the so-called musique profane. The work was performed on a mere two occasions in Basle, in 1943 and 1992, but with great success. The music was never published. Maria Martin, the composer's widow, suggested that a concert suite be developed on the basis of the Danse Macabre in Basle, 1943 to save the music from oblivion. However, this strategy would not have kept the complete version – a genuine masterpiece – from suffering the very same fate. Therefore, we have decided to produce the complete original version.
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