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Martin: Le vin herbé
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2008
All-round excellence is the term that applies to this release, a very fresh and natural sounding recording of first class performances by top-notch soloists, choir and instrumentalists of Frank Martin's breakthrough piece Le Vin Herbé.
Completed during the early years of the Second World War in the relative safety of Switzerland, it has the same story as Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde but is based on a more accurate version of the legend as published in book-form in 1900 by Joseph Bédier. The sequence of events is more or less that of Wagner's opera with some telling differences (for example, in this version the couple drinking the magic potion is the result of accident rather than deliberately set up by Brangane). Therefore presumably this piece could be staged as an opera - as a dramatic and to an extent musical experience it would sit somewhere between Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites and Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise. However, as is the case with the opera by Messiaen (who was to write a few Tristan-inspired works himself a few years after Martin's), the drama would be limited: the text is mostly descriptive with only a few instances of dialogue or monologue, likewise the music has few overtly dramatic episodes. Or rather, the drama is maintained at a consistent level, Martin expertly manages to keep moving things along with the limited means he employs, just a small ensemble of strings plus piano to accompany the extensive choir and solo-parts. Accordingly the music can at times sound quite austere, even somewhat earnest, and has this peculiar mix of French and German influences, although Martin consciously and successfully avoided any kind of Wagnerism.
A highly recommendable release of what must be an ideal entry-point into the sound-world of Frank Martin.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 April 2011
There's no faulting this recording as a product, by where my fellow reviewer describes it as an ideal entry point for discovering Frank Martin, I proffer a word of caution, especially if you got here via Wagner.

Martin's 'take' on the Tristan & Isolde story is a cantata, so muted in its drama, so slow and quiet, as to constantly threaten to rob you of wakefulness. At first it's fascinating, alluring, but eventually the 'subtlety' bores, especially if you've ever heard a truly great performance of Wagner's opera, which is so exciting many will feel they are going to expire in an ecstacy (true, that only tends to happen to singers or conductors).

I'm not knocking Martin generally - I've already ordered my copy of Golgotha after hearing it on the radio - but Le Vin Herbe might not inspire love in a newcomer so much as drowsiness.

Try to sample first.
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