Frank Martin on his Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments:
"The Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments was composed in 1949 for a commission which the Bern Orchestra gave me for an orchestral work. I chose the instrumental layout and the form myself. I set out to display the musical qualities of the various soloists in the wind and brass groups as well as their virtuosity, and so I made the music brilliant and technically difficult. But I also tried to make the most of the characters of sonority and expression of the seven instruments, which differ so greatly in their manner of producing sound and in their mechanisms."
"The first movement is particularly characteristic in this regard: each musical element is connected with one soloist, and they make up a conversation in which each speaks his own language. Towards the end of this movement the violins take up a melody, first stated by the trombone, while each of the high instruments, by way of decoration, repeats what it introduced at the beginning of the movement."
"The second movement rests entirely on an ostinato beat in 2/4, which serves to accompany various melodic elements, some elegant and serene, others sombre or violent. A lyrical phrase, originally played by the bassoon at the very top of its range, concludes the movement, but now on the trombone in the sweetness of its middle register."
"The third movement, with some exceptions (the trumpet provides a phrase all of its own), generally places the soloists in groups. It is a lively dance in 3/4 rhythm which is interrupted by an important timpani solo. The rhythm now changes, and far away a march is heard, whcih gradually becomes louder until it seizes the whole orchestra. At the height of its development, the melody played by the bassoon and the trombonein the second movement bursts in. Then the rhythm changes again, returning imperceptibily to the 3/4 of the start, and after a chase of the flute and clarinet and then of the other high instruments, the piece ends with a new theme of popular character in a brilliant crescendo."
Frank Martin was born in Geneva, the son of a Calvinist minister. Although he received music lessons in youth, his parents insisted he study mathematics and physics - Martin began a course of study at age16, but did not complete it. He had received no further tuition in music when, in 1926, took part in a seminar on the role of rhythm in musical education, given in Geneva by Emil Jacques-Dalcroze. He studied and then taught at Jacques-Dalcroze's institute, lectured at the Geneva conservatory and was later president of the Swiss Musicians' Union. Eventually his compositions began to receive performances and he travelled extensively to further them. After the Second World War he taught in Amsterdam and Cologne.
Martin's lengthy development as a composer encompasses a wide range of styles and approaches; initially influenced by J.S. Bach and Fryderyk Chopin, he embraced the modernist influences of Ravel and Debussy, folk music from Bulgaria and India and free atonality before discovering the serial methods of Schoenberg. Although his 'early' works have considerable merits, he is not thought to have achieved a mature style until 1941 with the completion of his oratorio Le vin herbé. His most famous work is probably the oratorio Golgotha (1945-48), an example of his love of tone-colour, smooth part-writing and extended harmony.