C1987. JEAN MARTINON Cond. ORTF S.O.: Schérérazade (Ravel); 'Urbs Roma' Symphony in F (Saint-Saëns); w. RUDOLF SERKIN: Piano Concerto #3 in c (Beethoven), Live Performance, 29 Jan., 1975, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées; JEAN MARTINON Cond. Chicago Orch.: En Saga (Sibelius). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1269. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“In the words of one of his biographers, conductor Jean Martinon's performances ‘were distinguished by a concern for translucent orchestral textures, and sustained by a subtle sense of rhythm and phrasing’. Occasionally ‘he stressed a poetic inflection at the expense of literal accuracy’.
Martinon's first instrument was the violin; he studied at the Lyons Conservatory (1924-1925), then transferred to the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prize in violin upon his graduation in 1928. He subsequently studied composition with Albert Roussel, and conducting with Charles Munch and Roger Desormière. Until the outbreak of World War II Martinon was primarily a composer. His early substantial works include a Symphoniette for piano, percussion, and strings (1935); Symphony #1 (1936); Concerto giocoso for violin and orchestra (1937); and a wind quintet (1938). At the start of the war he was drafted into the French army. Taken prisoner in 1940, he passed the next two years in a Nazi labor camp. There, he wrote 'Stalag IX’ (Musique d'exil), an orchestral piece incorporating elements of jazz; during his internment, he also composed several religious works, including ’Absolve’, ‘Domine’ for male chorus and orchestra, and ‘Psalm 136’ (Chant des captifs), the latter receiving a composition prize from the city of Paris in 1946.
Upon his release from the Nazi camp Martinon became conductor of the Bordeaux Symphony Orchestra (from 1943 to 1945) and assistant conductor of the Paris Conservatory Orchestra (from 1944 to 1946), then associate conductor of the London Philharmonic (from 1947 to 1949). He toured as a guest conductor as well, although his U.S. début did not come until 1957, with the Boston Symphony giving the American premiere of his Symphony #2. Although he devoted as much time as he could to composing in the early postwar years -- producing a string quartet (1946), an ‘Irish’ Symphony (1948), the ballet ‘Ambohimang’a (1946), and the opera HÉCUBE (1949-1954) -- he was increasingly occupied with conducting, working with the Concerts Lamoureux (from 1951 to 1957), the Israel Philharmonic (from 1957 to 1959), and Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra (from 1960 to 1966). Martinon resumed his career as a composer around 1960, writing his Violin Concerto #2 (1960) for Henryk Szeryng, his Cello Concerto (1964) for Pierre Fournier, and his Symphony #4 (‘Altitudes’), composed in 1965, for the 75th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony. He acknowledged Prokofiev and Bartók as strong influences on his scores, which meld Expressionism with French Neoclassicism. Martinon continued composing into the 1970s, but he seldom recorded any of his own music, with the notable exceptions of the Second Symphony, ‘Hymne à la vie’ (ORTF, for Barclay Inedits) and Fourth Symphony, ‘Altitudes"’ (Chicago SO, for RCA).
In 1963, he succeeded Fritz Reiner as head of the Chicago Symphony. Martinon's tenure there was difficult. In five seasons he conducted 60 works by modern European and American composers, and made a number of outstanding LPs for RCA, mostly of bracing twentieth century repertory in audiophile sound. Chicago's conservative music lovers soon sent him packing.
Martinon jumped at the chance to take over the French National Radio Orchestra in 1968; working with this ensemble he recorded almost the entire standard French repertory for Erato and EMI. His earlier Erato efforts that focused on such secondary but nevertheless interesting figures as Roussel, Pierné, and Dukas, whereas EMI assigned him integral sets of the Saint-Saëns symphonies and the orchestral works of Debussy and Ravel, among other projects. In 1974, he was appointed principal conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, but he died before that relationship could bear much fruit.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com
"Rudolf Serkin joined the international elite while still a teen-ager and by incessant, tireless practice held ranking for more than half a century as an artist of the highest type. He was an eminent 20th-century representative of a Viennese tradition that mingled the classical and romantic styles of pianism.
Among the dozens of recordings he made, those in which he teamed as a chamber-music partner with Adolf Busch, the German violinist, are especially prized by collectors. It was Mr. Busch who promoted the young pianist's European career, presenting him as a soloist in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5 at Mr. Serkin's Berlin debut in 1921. Mr. Serkin regarded Busch as one of the three musicians who most deeply influenced him. The others were his onetime composition teacher, Arnold Schonberg, and the conductor Arturo Toscanini. Mr. Serkin studied composition, first with Joseph Marx and later with Schonberg, and published a string quartet. He made his concert debut with the Vienna Symphony at 12, playing the Mendelssohn g minor Concerto. At 17, Mr. Serkin met Busch, who was looking for a pianist to accompany him in a concert. They struck up a friendship and Busch took the younger musician along with him to Berlin on tour. Busch was then 30 years old and internationally established as a violinist. Soon Mr. Serkin was appearing in the great cities of Europe both as accompanist and as chamber-music performer with the Busch Chamber Players.
In April 1933, with the Nazis in the ascendancy in Germany, Busch stirred a controversy by refusing to appear at a Brahms centennial celebration in Hamburg. Although not Jewish himself, he was offended because a young Jewish pianist had been denied permission to play. The pianist was Rudolf Serkin.
Mr. Serkin had moved with the Busch family to Darmstadt in 1922. In 1927 they all left Germany and settled near Basel, Switzerland. After Hitler's rise to power, they applied for Swiss citizenship, which they held until all became American citizens in 1950.
Mr. Serkin first played in the United States in 1933 with Busch at a Coolidge Festival concert in the Library of Congress in Washington. He did not perform here again until his formal debut in New York on 20 Feb., 1936, when he appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini. His recital debut came on 11 Jan., 1937, at Carnegie Hall. The next year Mr. Serkin and Busch performed the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas at Town Hall. In 1939, Mr. Serkin joined the piano faculty of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he taught for 36 years. From 1968 to 1975 he was director of the Institute.
Great though Mr. Serkin's success was as a concert pianist, perhaps his most lasting impact on musical life was as a teacher and inspirational force. In 1949, he helped found the Marlboro Festival in Vermont. Living in the same area at the time were Adolf and Herman Busch, Blanche Honegger Moyse, Louis Moyse and Marcel Moyse, all renowned musicians who had also left Europe. They merged their talents and quickly turned Marlboro into an American chamber-music mecca and a magnet for talent. The word 'Marlboro' came to stand for musicianship of a special, ardent type. Each summer, Mr. Serkin and his circle were joined by like-minded artists, including Pablo Casals, Alexander Schneider, Felix Galimir, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Jaime and Ruth Laredo, Eugene Istomin, Pina Carmirelli and Peter Serkin (Mr. Serkin's son, himself a world-class pianist). At Marlboro, Mr. Serkin made a point of being a musician among colleagues, as ready to turn pages for other players as to perform. Friends of Mr. Serkin - and he seemed to have no enemies - spoke with incredulity of his unfailing good humor, his shy and sweet-tempered manner with everyone, the unknown as well as the famous. A longtime colleague, after giving the phenomenon some thought, remarked: 'It's impossible to talk about anybody's being saintly in this age, but Serkin is'."
- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 May, 1991