l’Odyssée Frank martin


Frank Martin

A Geneva composer of international renown who left his mark on the history of 20th century music.

© Atelier Boissonnas

Frank Martin left his mark on the history of 20th century music. His free-thinking nature, profoundly humanistic and open to modernity, together with his creative excellence, allowed him to make a significant contribution to the renewal of the musical language of the last century, surpassing the singular to arrive at the universal.

Born in Geneva in 1890, Frank Martin studied piano, instrumentation and composition in Geneva under composer Joseph Lauber. Throughout his career in Geneva, Frank Martin taught musical theory and improvisation at both the Geneva Conservatory of Music as well as the Technicum Moderne de Musique, of which he was the founder. An expert in rhythmic theory, he taught classes in the subject at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze. In 1926, he founded the Geneva Chamber Music Society. He was awarded numerous accolades, among them the Prix de Genève in 1951, the Grand Prix of the Semaines Musicales Internationales de Paris in 1964, and the Prix Arthur Honegger in 1969. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne and became an honorary member of numerous institutions. He died in 1974 in Naarden in the Netherlands, where he had lived since 1946.

Frank Martin’s musical oeuvre is characterised by intense lyricism. If his Protestant roots strongly influenced his work, his religious compositions, while very popular, make up only a fraction of his work. Influenced by a wide variety of musical styles, he drew inspiration from diverse sources that were far-removed from the classical canon and heralded a musical revolution. Jazz, folk music, the choral tradition, medieval texts, contemporary literature, dance...this is just a small sample of the sources of inspiration from which Frank Martin drew with grace and joy.

Choral works, concertos, music for the stage, chamber music. orchestral music…Martin’s compositions include all these and more, but some of the seminal works on offer are: La Messe à Double Chœur (one of his most recorded works), Le Vin Herbé, In Terra Pax and its inimitable recording by Ernest Ansermet, Le Requiem, Der Sturm and the entirety of Thierry Fischer’s interpretation of it, Ein Totentanz zum Basel im Jahre 1943, Le Cornette and more…

"Frank Martin is the spirit of Geneva". Ernest Ansermet, Frank Martin’s friend and founder of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR), highlighted the extent to which the composer’s roots inhabit his music. In relaying his entire body of work, the Frank Martin Odyssey Association (Association l’Odyssée Frank Martin) seeks to demonstrate this, and to offer Genevans the opportunity to claim or reclaim this musical heritage and Martin’s exceptional spirit.

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