Tag Archives: Maximiliano Martin

Martin / Mitchell

Maximiliano Martin/Scott Mitchell

Perth Concert Hall

During the entire duration of this live concert hiatus, opportunities to hear Maximiliano Martin have not been rare at all. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Principal Clarinet has popped up in many a chamber music series, he has his own new concerto album out with an orchestra from his native Tenerife, and been a mainstay of the SCO’s stream of digital transmissions from Edinburgh, Perth and St Andrews.

The final work in this recital of sonatas in the company of pianist Scott Mitchell was, in fact, a feature of one of those, in October of last year, with Simon Smith at the piano. Leonard Bernstein’s two-movement Sonata for Clarinet and Piano is the sound of a young composer finding his own voice, and quite compelling for that reason: the first movement in the academic mode of 1941, the second exploring the jazzy showbiz style that would take him to Broadway and Hollywood.

As the presenter of this concert on BBC Radio 3, Tom Redmond, pointed out, chamber works for clarinet are associated with the final years of Mozart and Brahms as well as two of the French composers that made up the bulk of this programme. However, the first of them, Ernest Chausson, was also represented by a piece from the tail-end of his student years at the Paris Conservatoire. The explosive Allegro of his Andante and Allegro is a real showpiece for clarinet and was a great sparkling start here.

The Saint-Saens sonata that followed is a wonderfully-constructed work, no less flashy in places but with a deliciously sombre tone in the middle that then leaps from the bottom of the clarinet’s range to the higher register before a piano-led segue into the last movement.

In what was a compact history-lesson in works for these instruments, it was the perfect bridge to the meaty fare of Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata. Commissioned by Benny Goodman, its composer died before he could play the piano part with the King of Swing, so a young Leonard Bernstein stepped up. It is a big work that is also, like those on either side of it, full of variation, with an ear-catchingly repetitious song-like slow movement and a cinematic rapid car chase of a finale.

The video presentation from Perth’s Easter Festival was characteristically understated, marred only by a minor captioning error and occasional vision-mixing glitch. Radio listeners were treated to a brief Debussy encore. 

Keith Bruce

Available to watch via horsecross.co.uk

Caprices and Laments

Maximiliano Martin/Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife/Navarro


The centrefold of the  booklet that accompanies this fine new disc of clarinet concertos features one of the most eloquent orchestra publicity pictures you’ll see. With their trousers rolled and hemlines skimming the water’s surface, the shoe-less orchestra of the Canary Islands, in full evening dress, are assembled around a pair of timpani, a line of white surf lapping at their ankles and the famous black sand of Tenerife between their toes. It is an image that immediately makes you want to know what these game musicians sound like. The additional knowledge that they were recorded by the Delphian team in the stunning Auditorio de Tenerife designed by Santiago Calatrava should only further whet the appetite.

The good news is that they are very good indeed. An internationally-recruited outfit, there is a crisp freshness to their string sound, the section that makes up all bar seven players on the disc. The featured soloist is local lad Maximiliano Martin, long-standing principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and stalwart of the SCO’s current programme of digital concerts featuring smaller groups.

For all that this is Martin’s disc, his countrymen are by no means a mere backing track, given the robust repertoire he has chosen to showcase his own virtuosity. The concertos by Copland and Nielsen and James MacMillan’s one-movement Tuireadh are contrasting works, but each has fine scoring for the strings, not excepting the MacMillan, which began life as a work for clarinet and string quartet. Conductor Lucas Macias Navarro is himself a wind player, with the benefit to his role here of having played oboe in concerts and recordings directed by Claudio Abbado, and his feel for the balance between soloist and strings is surely crucial to this album’s success.

Composed as a memorial to the 167 lives lost in the 1988 fire on the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea, Tuireadh is always a harrowing listen, with its borrowings from laments in Scottish traditional music and raw vocal keening. Placed last in this sequence, it is one of the few works that could follow the already troubled late work by Carl Nielsen, the character of which is said to come less from its composer than from Nielsen’s dedicatee, the clarinettist of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, Aage Oxenvad. With no reference recording in existence, Martin creates an image of this turbulent chap, in particular partnership with the snare drum of Juan Antonio Minana, that is a portrait in sound.

Aaron Copland’s concerto was written 20 years later for Benny Goodman, who reportedly – and slightly incredibly – found the score more challenging than he had bargained for. It is a sparkling jazzy opener on this disc, and another illustration of Martin’s command of a range of voices on his instrument, recently demonstrated in the SCO’s excellent performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.

Keith Bruce

SCO: Barber String Quartet

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

The inclusion of the very colourful Nonet by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in the latest of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s digital concert broadcasts on its YouTube channel was particularly appropriate during Black History Month, and – surely as intended – prompts speculation as to why such an attractive work is not performed more often. Whatever discrimination the young composer faced as a student at the Royal College of Music in London, it is undeniable that the piece probably suffered from changes in musical
fashion. Composed in the last decade of the 19th century, it faces backwards towards Johannes Brahms rather than anticipating the modernism to come. Perhaps the more pertinent question is to ask what Coleridge-Taylor may have produced had he lived beyond his mid-30s?

There was a sumptuous depth-of-field to this performance, the four strings, four winds, and Simon Smith’s piano beautifully spaced in the venue. The Andante second movement is gorgeous, with double bass, bassoon, and Smith’s left hand combining in the underscore, while Maximiliano Martin’s clarinet had many of the brightest top lines, recalling Brahms’s work for the instrument in his later years.

Martin and Smith provided the recital’s opener, Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata of 1941. This too is an apprentice piece, and a key work in the musician’s nascent composing career, the development from influence (Hindemith) to originality (unmistakable pre-echoes of the music that would find its way into Fancy Free and then On The Town) audible in the work’s two movements. It is in the dance rhythms of the second movement that the two players combine most effectively.

By far the most familiar music of the programme came at the heart of the central work: Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor. It is quite possible to prefer the original version of the Adagio for Strings in the work’s slow movement (much more edgy than the string orchestra arrangement, and not lush at all) and still have reservations about the context in which it appears. The work had a vexed gestation and some of its more startling details still jar, including the surprising viola figure that punctuates the abrupt ending of the first movement, and the sense of incompleteness about the brief final version of the finale. However Stephanie Gonley, Gordon Bragg, Felix Tanner, and Eric de Wit, although not a seasoned foursome, produced as communicative an interpretation as one might hope to hear, and the presentation was enhanced by some highly-skilled camera-work, with matching shifts of focus.
Keith Bruce