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In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

DR. VON LYRIC – Frank Martin: “Astringent, vehement, elegant, eloquent”

Nov 7, 2014 3:41:00 PM
By BLO Staff

I have been an admirer of Frank Martin for quite a while, and the quote above (from a review of Le Vin HerbéThe Love Potion, in BLO's translation) sums up for me the peculiarly attractive qualities of this somewhat overlooked composer. Born in 1890 in Geneva and the youngest of ten children of a Calvinist pastor, he showed musical talents early. Respecting his parents’ wishes, he studied mathematics and physics at university, but also pursued piano, composition, and harmony. Subsequently he lived in Zurich, Rome, and Paris, and his compositions from this period reflect his search for an authentic musical voice. In 1926, he established the Chamber Music Society of Geneva, where he conducted, taught music theory, and performed as a pianist. Le Vin Herbé was written in 1938. Throughout his long career he composed in a wide variety of genres – operas, symphonic and chamber music, choral music, and pieces for piano, organ, and guitar, some examples of which are linked below. There is much more on YouTube and there are many excellent CDs. He is worth exploring.

My friend David Schweizer is directing The Love Potion, and he reports that it is coming together well in rehearsal. It is a very unusual piece (not really written as an opera, but it has been staged), and its dramatic and musical riches seem to call out for a theatrical presentation. BLO's performances (in its Annex series) will take place in an equally unusual space – a soaring domed hall at the Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline – that seems right out of Parisfal, somehow appropriate for a telling of the Tristan story from the world of Arthurian mythology. It seems an event not to be missed.

We start with an interview:

…and then, as I indicated above, a few excerpts from Martin’s varied output:

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