Frank Martin: Triptychon

Muriel Cantoreggi, Juliane Banse, German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Christoph Poppen

CD18,90 out of print

The exceptional symphonic works of Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974) finally given the recordings they have long deserved. This is music of beauty and intensity: Martin’s touchstone was Bach’s St Mathew Passion and its influence shines through these radiant pieces. Muriel Cantoreggi soars over two string orchestras on the Polyptyque and answers the soprano of Juliane Banse on the moving Maria-Tripytchon. Throughout, Christoph Poppen draws forth sensitive performances from the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.

Featured Artists Recorded

February & June 2006, Funkhaus Halberg

Original Release Date


  • Polyptyque - Six images of the Passion of Christ
    (Frank Martin)
  • 1I. Image des Rameaux03:53
  • 2II. Image de la Chambre haute05:28
  • 3III. Image de Juda02:10
  • 4IV. Image de Géthsémané04:18
  • 5V. Image du Jugement03:54
  • 6VI. Image de la Glorification04:27
  • Maria-Triptychon
    (Traditional, Frank Martin)
  • 7Ave Maria03:30
  • 8Magnificat10:16
  • 9Stabat Mater07:00
  • 10Passacaille (1944/1962)
    (Frank Martin)
It always struck me as odd that Frank Martin didn’t enjoy a higher standing, either in his own lifetime or since, not least as, especially over the last decade or so, there has been a decent enough spread of recordings to attest to the depth and quality of his achievement. … This magnificent new ECM recording from Christoph Poppen is all the more welcome: the three pieces here make the case for Martin as eloquently as could be hoped.
Martin Anderson, International Record Review
All three works on this superbly performed and warmly recorded disc attest to Frank Martin’s lifelong passion for the music of Bach. The Polyptyque … reflects the direct influence of the St Matthew Passion… Violinist Muriel Cantoreggi delivers a strongly lyrical performance of the solo part.
In the Maria-Triptychon Martin combines solo violin with soprano and full orchestra to ecstatic effect in the central Magnificat. However it’s the concluding funeral tread of the Stabat Mater that really lingers in the memory, particularly as performed here with such intensity by Juliane Banse and Cantoreggi. … The newly created German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra … responds very effectively to Christoph Poppen’s incisive conducting.
Erik Levi, BBC Music Magazine
The 1973 Polyptyque, for solo violin and two string orchestras, is an explicitly programmatic, six-movement commentary on scenes from the St Matthew Passion, in a style that seems a curious hybrid of densely expressive chromaticism and a more limpid tonality. The Maria-Triptychon, completed five years earlier, sets the three traditional Marian texts – Ave Maria, Magnificat and Stabat Mater – as a church cantata-like sequence of soprano arias with violin obbligato. Soprano Juliane Banse is perfectly suited to such vocal writing, and under Christoph Poppen, the strings of the German Radio Philharmonic sound wonderfully lustrous.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
The soprano Juliane Banse sings the frantic Magnificat as if troubled by the awesome responsibility the angel wants her to shoulder. Polyptyque for violin and double string orchestra meditates in sombre hues on six Matthew Passion images with Muriel Cantoreggi the voiceless soloist. The Passacaille weaves a dark, chromatic theme that builds in intensity and rewards repeated listening. Christoph Poppen conducts with a flowing baton.
Rick Jones, The Times
Um Frank Martin ist es leider in den letzten Jahrzehnten etwas still geworden… Umso willkommener diese Neuaufnahme… Der Genfer Pastorensohn legte vom christlichen Glauben seiner Vorfahren zeitlebens auch musikalisch Zeugnis ab. Sein „Polyptyque“ für Violine und doppeltes Streichorchester bezieht sich auf sechs Passionsszenen aus dem großen Altarbild „La Maestà“ im Dom von Siena. … Die Solistin Muriel Cantoreggi spielt als erprobte Kammermusikerin den Part denn auch mit dem intendierten diskreten und doch leuchtenden Profil. Im „Maria-Trptychon“ trifft sie auf Juliane Banse, die mit der Natürlichkeit ihres Soprans … die Grundstimmungen des Glaubens (Ave Maria), der Freude (Magnificat) und des Schmerzes (Stabat Mater) überzeugend vermittelt.
Franz Cavigelli, Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag
Zwei späte, religiös begründete Werke Frank Martins fesseln vor allem durch die Verschmelzung von konstruktiver Logik mit Kantabilität und elementar rhythmischem Musiziergeist. … Sopranistin Juliane Banse gibt den Texten lyrische Andacht und die Schönheit sanfter Trauer. Geigerin Muriel Catoreggi ist die zart empfindende Mitspielerin. Die neue Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken/Kaiserslautern überzeugt unter Leitung von Chefdirigent Christoph Poppen durch ernsten Einsatz, Weite des Klangbilds.
Wolfgang Schreiber, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Drei der nachdrücklichsten und tief empfundenen Werke von Frank Martin werden hier in großer interpretatorischer Qualität vorgestellt. Es ist eine Musik, die aus dem Glauben kommt und zugleich den Rückgriff auf Bach sucht, der freilich in ganz andere Ausdruckswelten geweitet wird. Höchste Aufrichtigkeit und zugleich große kompositorische Präzision sind die Basis von Martins Schaffen… Jetzt beginnt man sich der enormen Qualitäten dieser Musik rückzubesinnen. Und diese Einspielung ist bester Fürsprecher!
Reinhard Schulz, Neue Musikzeitung
“For me, Frank Martin – quite in the same way as Karl Amadeus Hartmann – is one of these composers from the 20th century who really deserve much more attention, as there is so much to discover in their music even for broader audiences. I’m most fascinated by Martin’s particular blend of a deeply religious attitude, an abstract religiosity that speaks to non-believing listeners with no less intensity, and a wonderful vocal, singing quality.”
Christoph Poppen

“Triptychon” as a disc, in fact, is a triptych in several respects: an outstanding yet unjustly neglected 20th century composer, the Swiss Frank Martin (1890–1974) can be discovered here in three important compositions from his late period. Martin was born the son of a Calvinist minister in Geneva in 1890 and grew up under the double influence of German and French musical traditions before developing his own distinctive “free tonal” style. In Martin’s mature works twelve-tone structures and chromaticism are reconciled with a basically tonal writing which Martin regarded as an essential component of all true and meaningful music. His scores are thoroughly constructed but very accessible in their linear beauty. A particular masterpiece is “Maria Triptychon”, originally written for Irmgard Seefried and Wolfgang Schneiderhahn, which is composed of an Ave Maria, a Magnificat and a Stabat Mater. Here, Muriel Cantoreggi’s solo violin serves as an intermediary between the soprano of Juliane Banse and the transparent orchestra directed by Chrsitoph Poppen.

Three well-known ECM artists can be heard in modified constellations on this disc: Muriel Cantoreggi, a former pupil of Poppen’s and concertmaster with the Munich Chamber Orchestra now devoting more of her time to chamber music and solo work plays the highly demanding and expressive solo part in “Polyptyque”. The work was inspired by the large altarpiece “La Maestà” by Duccio di Buoninsegna (around 1300) in the dome of Siena. Martin selected six images from the passion of Christ and created a deeply-felt musical equivalent for the impressions conveyed by the paintings. “With some people, this music will be able to help to recreate within themselves these pictures of the Passion; for others they will be pieces, more or less interesting”, Martin wrote about “Polyptyque” while leaving it to the listener to decode the religious meanings or not.

Juliane Banse – who was last heard on ECM alongside Hungarian violinist András Keller with a multiple prize-winning rendering of György Kurtág’s “Kafka Fragmente” – is in constantly growing demand as an opera singer. Her most recent success was the Zurich “Genoveva” (Schumann) with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting and Martin Kušej directing. Christoph Poppen on the other hand, the former director of the Munich Chamber orchestra, for the first time leads his “new” orchestra, the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken / Kaiserslautern. The ensemble resulted from the merger between two well-respected radio orchestras in the West of Germany in summer 2007: Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern from the Palatia region, specializing on beyond-the-genres projects, and the Rundfunksymphonieorchester des Saarländischen Rundfunks, based in Saarbrücken, which has won itself a considerable international reputation with exemplary performances of contemporary music under its former artistic director Hans Zender and with acclaimed cycles of Bruckner and Berlioz, under Stanislaw Skrowaczewski’s baton.

Leader of an internationally renowned string quartet, artistic director with a particularly adventurous chamber orchestra, eventually the same position with a full symphony orchestra: Poppen considers his expanding career as a natural process. “You certainly have to ‘direct’ more with a symphony orchestra but, on the other hand, a group of this size and history has a stronger identity that has developed over the years independently of conductors coming and leaving. Our main preoccupation with the new merged orchestra is to offer a most varied repertoire reaching from contemporary music to the entertaining segment. There is no single note from our concerts that isn’t broadcast and distributed via radio, TV or the internet. I’m convinced that you can win broad audiences for contemporary music if you are prepared to offer an open concept that isn’t confined just to the avant-garde in its strictest sense”.