Off to War
Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Lay of the Love and Death of the Cornet Christoph Rilke) is one of the Swiss composer Frank Martin's central works and a splendid musical setting of the popular poem of the same name by Rainer Maria Rilke. The story of Cornet Rilke, from the command to march until his death, is its subject. With this suite consisting of more than twenty songs, heard here for the first time on a multichannel Super Audio CD, the Orchestra of the Musikkollegium Winterthur under Jac van Steen continues its Martin series on MDG.
For Frank Martin it was love at first sight. When the composer was looking for a text for a song cycle in 1942, his wife showed him this Rilke poem from 1899. The action is set at the time of the Turkish Wars, depicts the hard and wild life of army camps, the tumult of battle, noble military commanders, and splendid castle feasts with amorous adventures, and culminates in Cornet Rilke's dream. "It is my most fervent wish that a few people may find in my music something of what Rilke has given me."
Martin keeps the twenty-three songs in their original form and has the compact chamber orchestra, together with winds, harp, celesta, piano, and percussion, interpret the various tone-painting levels with sophistication. His use of Basel drums stands out and supplies a historic, menacing sound in the military scenarios. Rilke's text long was criticized for its pathos, but the music conveys just the opposite - which is why Rilke, who adamantly opposed the various settings of the poem known to him, certainly would have valued Frank Martin's version.
On to Victory
Christianne Stotijn was initially trained as a violinist before embarking on a career as a vocalist. Ever since Echo distinguished her as a "Rising Star," the Dutch mezzo-soprano has been at home in all the leading concert halls. This second recording featuring works by Martin again shows the Musikkollegium Winterthur in brilliant form; it conjures up the necessary musical magic for the complex and often so fleeting nuances in Stotijn's rendering of the text. What fascinating emotional worlds open up in this interpretation!
Reviews"an extended piece for contralto and chamber orchestra, a nearly hour-long tour-de-force that demands much of the singer while creating a rare, other-world atmosphere that at once envelops the listener and illuminates Rilke's strange, affecting tale, where violence and death are always nearby, but where simple pleasures and tender moments are cherished and respectfully shared... Contralto Christianne Stotijn is nothing less than magnificent." -Classics Today (9/10)