Frank Martin’s cocktail of melodic atonality is one that is reluctant to reveal its charms straight away. However, repeated hearings of the 1966 Cello Concerto, composed for Pierre Fournier, suggest a more persuasive sense of cogency. Although Martin gravitates naturally towards a kind of austere harmonic melancholy, the lyrical material of the opening movement is quite magical – if sometimes lacking in a clear sense of direction. Nonetheless, Christian Poltéra’s perceptive and expressive playing brings much eloquence to the melodic line, and the brutalised and rhythmically charged motifs in the finale receive an energised articulation. This vivid performance is certainly enhanced by the alert orchestral contribution and an outstandingly balanced recording.
The Ballade, performed here in its version for cello and piano, strikes me as being a rather grey composition that tends to meander in places. Again Poltéra serves the work with impassioned devotion, cleverly steering a sense of purpose through the copious double-stops that dominate the textures. In contrast the piano preludes make far more of a dramatic impact, largely because of their sharply delineated invention and focused structure, elements that are brilliantly projected in this performance from Kathryn Stott.