on 15 September 2013
I would agree with the enthusiastic remarks of the other reviewers with some reservations. I was not aware of these big orchestral works until recently. I have yet to get to grips with the symphony but the symphonie concertante is an adaptation of his wonderful petite symphonie concertante (harp, harpsichord, piano and two string orchestras) for large orchestra. Although this gives the work much greater weight, in my view it seriously detracts from the essential concertante (and antiphonal) characteristics of the original. Take the opening of the adagio: in the original, the harp plays a theme against arpeggios from the harpsichord for nearly two minutes, then the piano briefly replaces the harp - all before the string orchestras comes in. It is a magical passage. In the version for large orchestra, the harps can be heard in the distance playing the harpsichord's arpeggios while, I think, low flutes play the theme. It is still seriously good music but when you know the original version, I think you feel the lack. The parts played by the harp, harpsichord and piano are crucial to the texture of this marvellous piece. It you are a Martin fan, you will get both versions.
The passacaglia, on the other hand, is such that it sounds good in its several manifestations. It exists in versions for organ and string orchestra and this one for large orchestra sounds splendid.