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Biographical timeline

1890

September 15: birth of Frank Martin, tenth child of pastor Charles Martin and Pauline Martin-Duval, in Geneva at the summer residence of the Martin family, 67, route de Malagnou. Already at a very young age, Frank spends much time at the piano, improvising and trying to harmonise the songs he knows. He plays the accompaniments of psalms and hymns of the Reformed Church, using numbers as notation. His older sisters, who take music lessons, decide to teach him normal music notation, which he learns in a few days. 

Frank Martin, aged 15
The paternal house of Frank Martin. Malagnou 67, Geneva

Geneva, 67 route de Malagnou

1899

First composition: Tête de Linotte, a child’s song perfectly constructed and accomplished.  >

1903

At Easter, Frank attends a performance of the Saint Matthew Passion in the Cathedral Saint Pierre of Geneva, an event which impresses him profoundly and marks him for the rest of his life.

Frank Martin, aged 15

Frank Martin at the age of 15

1906

Frank, who was never enrolled at any conservatoire, begins his musical education with Joseph Lauber, who teaches him piano, harmony, composition and instrumentation.

1908 - 1910

Studies Mathematics and Physics at the University of Geneva.

1910

Frank Martin registers as a member of the Association des Musiciens Suisses (AMS) and serves on the committee from 1931. From 1942 to 1946, he becomes its president, and then an honorary member until his death. Thus, he was affiliated to this association for 64 years.

1911

May 20: first performance of Trois poèmes païens, conducted by Joseph Lauber, during the AMS Festival in Vevey.

1915

While mobilised, he composes his Symphonie pour orchestre burlesque.

1913 - 1918

Composes several works, including Les Dithyrambes, first performed by Ernest Ansermet during the AMS Festival in Lausanne, on June 16, 1918.

1914 - 1918

After refusing to enter the École d’officiers, Frank Martin is called up as a sergeant telephonist.

1918

September 10: marriage to Odette Micheli.
Settles in Zürich, Plattenstrasse 22.

1919

First performance of the Quintette avec piano in Zürich by the de Boer quartet with Frank Martin at the piano.

1920

Back to Geneva where the couple settles in the home of the Micheli family at Landecy.

Composes the Quatre Sonnets à Cassandre (Pierre de Ronsard). The first work that he would later judge as «worthy».

Frank Martin, aged 15

1922

May 9: birth of his first son,
Renaud François Louis (1922-2007).

Composes the Messe for double choir a cappella.

1924

Departure for Paris where Frank is in charge of the music for the Russian puppet theatre of Madame Sazonova, ‘Les petits comédiens de bois’, at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier.

1925

Composes the Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandises, a work in which polyrhythmes is an important element of the musical language, at Capbreton, where Frank Martin spends the summer.

1926

• Composes Rythmes.

• Frank Martin follows a summer course at l’Institut Jacques-Dalcroze and in addition gives a lecture on rhythm.

• Beginning of his friendship with Bernard Reichel.

• Autumn: separated from his wife, Frank Martin settles in Geneva again, with his father at 67, route de Malagnou. Together with some musician friends, he creates the ‘Société de Musique de Chambre de Genève’ which he would direct as pianist and harpsichord player until 1936.

• Frank Martin is appointed music critic to ‘La Tribune de Genève’ for symphonic concerts.

• He enrols at the institute Jacques-Dalcroze, obtaining a diploma in 1928.

1922 - 1929

Various incidental music compositions: Oedipe-Roi (1922), Oedipe à Colone (1923), Le Divorce (1928, Regnard), the Jeux du Rhône and Roméo et Juliette (1929).

1928

• Appointed teacher of improvisation and theory of rhythm at this institute

• Autumn: first drafts, with Albert Rudhardt,
of La Nique à Satan.

• Settles at 8, bd. de la Tour, in Geneva.

• June 29: performance of Regnard’s Divorce at Carmen da Silva’s studio d’Art dramatique, where Frank Martin meets for the first time Irène Gardian who was working with this group of artists.

1929

• Composes and conducts the Fêtes du Rhône in Geneva and Roméo et Juliette (adapted by René Morax) in Mézières.

• Autumn: begins to compose an Oratorio de Noël which was never completed.

1930

September 3: official dissolution of the marriage of Frank Martin and Odette Martin-Micheli.

Frank Martin is appointed teacher of chamber music at the Geneva Conservatoire.

1931

• March 28: marriage to Irène Gardian (1901-1939).
Settles at rue Etienne-Dumont, 22.

• Summer: composes the Sonate pour violon et piano no.2, during the holidays at l’Ile d’Oléron.

1932

March 13: birth of Frank Martin’s first daughter, Françoise Séverine (1932-2020).

Charles Martin, father of Frank, in his landau. Geneva, 1933, (photo Frank Martin)

Charles Martin, father of Frank, in his landau.
Geneva, 1933 (photo Frank Martin)

1933 - 1938

Frank Martin’s confrontation with Schönberg’s 12 note system, from which he only keeps the elements acceptable to his musical sensitivity.

1933

    • February 25: conducts the first performance of La Nique à Satan at the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

• Begins to compose the Quatre pieces brèves pour guitare, a work dedicated to Andrès Segovia.

• September: foundation of the Technicum Moderne de Musique with Frank Martin as artistic director.

1934

August 11: death of Charles Martin, father of Frank Martin who inherits the farm on the property of Malagnou which his nephew, Marcel Bonnard, transforms into a villa.

1935

• April 19: birth of Frank Martin’s second daughter, Jeanne Pernette.

• Easter: journey to Auvergne with Bernard Reichel, during which the two friends conceive the theme of the comic saga of the Tombeau de Monsieur Basile (text by Frank Martin, illustrations by Bernard Reichel).

‘• Composes the Rhapsodie for 2 violins, 2 violas and double bass, a work which won a prize at the ‘Carillon’ composition competition.

1936

April 22: performance of the Concerto pour piano no. 1, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, at the International society of contemporary music festival in Barcelona.

Summer: settles at route de Malagnou, 22, in the farm transformed into a villa.

Autumn: begins to compose the Symphonie pour grand orchestre.

1937

 August 9: birth of Adrienne,
Frank Martin’s third daughter.

1938

• Winter: composes the Ballade pour saxophone, orchestre à cordes, piano et batterie, commissioned by Sigurd Rascher.

• Spring-summer: composes the first part of Le Vin herbé, commissioned by Robert Blum, of Zürich.

• Autumn: composes the Sonata da Chiesa pour viole d’amour et orgue, commissioned by the organist from Basel, Hans Balmer.

End of the year: settles at 16, cours des Bastions, Geneva.

1939

Winter: composes the Ballade pour flûte et piano, commissioned by the Geneva International competition of music performance.

May 25: death of Irène Martin-Gardian,
as the result of an acute disease.

Summer: composes the Ballade pour piano et orchestre at l’Ile d’Oléron.

Autumn: settles at 14, rue des Eaux-Vives.

The Technicum Moderne de Musique ceases to exist.

 

1940

• Composes the Ballade pour trombone et piano, commissioned by the Swiss national competition of music performance, in Geneva.

• April 16: premiere of the first part of Le Vin herbé, in Zürich.

• October: first visit from Alfred Schlee, future director of Universal Edition.

• Summer-autumn: composes the second part of Le Vin herbé.

November 13: marriage to Maria Boeke, flautist and former professional student of the Technicum Moderne de Musique.  >

Frank Martin and his wife Maria. Geneva, 1945, (photo Dinu Lipatti)

1941

• Winter-spring: composes the 3rd part of Le Vin herbé.

• Autumn: composes the ballet Das Märchen vom Aschenbrödel, to a scenario by Marie-Eve Kreis.

1942

• March 12: first performance of the ballet Das Märchen vom Aschenbrödel, conducted by Paul Sacher, in the theatre of Basel.

• March 28: first performance of the complete version of Le Vin herbé, conducted by Robert Blum, in Zurich.

• Autumn: starts to compose Rilke’s Der Cornet.

1943

• May 27: first performance of Ein Totentanz zu Basel im Jahr 1943, to a scenario by Mariette de Meyenbourg, at the Münsterplatz in Basel.  >

Ein Totentanz zu Basel 1943. Deathe (Fritz Stebler) Basle, May 1943
From left to right: Madeleine Lipatti, Frank Martin, Maria Martin, Dinu Lipatti. Schönenberg, September 1944

1944

April: begins to compose the Petite Symphonie concertante, commissioned by Paul Sacher. Interrupted in July, in order to compose In terra pax, commissioned by Radio Geneva for armistice day.

1945

• February 9: first performance of Der Cornet,
conducted by Paul Sacher, in Basel.

• July-August: vacation in Saanen, in the Bernese Oberland, where Frank Martin begins to compose Golgotha.

 

1946

• May 17: first performance of the Petite Symphonie concertante conducted by Paul Sacher, in Zurich.

• Composes incidental music and choruses for Athalie by Racine, commissioned by the Secondary school for young girls in Geneva.

• July: moves to Holland
and settles temporarily in Bergen-on-sea.

• November 9: birth of Jan Frank,
second son of the composer.

• November 17:
settles at Prinsengracht 579 in Amsterdam.  >

Ein Totentanz zu Basel 1943. Deathe (Fritz Stebler) Basle, May 1943

1947

November: composes the Trois Chants de Noël on poems by Albert Rudhardt.

1948

• Winter-spring: composes the Huit Préludes pour le piano, for Dinu Lipatti.

• August 15: first staged performance of Le Vin herbé in German, entitled Der Zaubertrank, at the Salzburg Festival.

1949

 • January: begins to compose the Ballade pour violoncelle.

• February: begins to compose the Concerto pour 7 instruments à vent, timbales, batterie et orchestre à cordes.

March 22: birth of Anne Thérèse,
Frank Martin’s fourth daughter.

• April 29: first performance of Golgotha, conducted by Samuel Baud-Bovy, in Geneva.

• Frank Martin spends the summer at la Petite Grave (Geneva) where he orchestrates the Sechs Monologe aus Jedermann and completes the Concerto pour 7 instruments à vent.

1950

• Early winter: composes the Cinq chants d’Ariel.

• March: Begins to compose the Concerto pour violon, commissioned by Pro Helvetia and Paul Sacher.

• Appointed teacher of composition at the ‘Staatliche Hochschule für Musik’ in Cologne.

• November: first performance of the Ballade pour violoncelle et petit orchestre, conducted by Paul Sacher, in Zürich.

1951

Frank Martin begins to compose the Concert pour clavecin et petit orchestre, commissioned by Isabelle Nef.

1952

• January 24: first performance of the Concerto pour violon, conducted by Paul Sacher, in Basel.

• Autumn: begins to compose the opera Der Sturm, after Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

1953

Early July: awarded the ‘Grosser Kunstpreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen’.

1955

Begins to compose the Etudes pour orchestre à cordes, commissioned by Paul Sacher.

1956

March 1: moves to Naarden where the family had acquired a house surrounded by a pine forest.  >

• June 17: first performance of the opera, Der Sturm, conducted by Ernst Ansermet, in Vienna.

• November 23: first performance of the Etudes pour orchestre à cordes, conducted by Paul Sacher, in Basel.

Ein Totentanz zu Basel 1943. Deathe (Fritz Stebler) Basle, May 1943

1957

• January: begins to compose the oratorio Le Mystère de la Nativité, after Le Mystère de la Passion by Arnoul Gréban, commissioned by Radio-Geneva.

• Autumn: Frank Martin leaves the ‘Staatliche Hochschule für Musik’ in Cologne.

1958

Composes l’Ouverture en Rondeau, commissioned by the Lucern Festival Orchestra, and the cantata Pseaumes de Genève, commissioned by Radio-Geneva, on the occasion of the 4th centenary of Geneva University.

1959

December 23: first performance of the Mystère de la Nativité, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, in Geneva.

1960

• Grand concert tour with the cellist Henri Honegger.

• October: begins to compose the ‘music comedy’, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac by Molière, commissioned by Radio-Geneva.

1961

Composes the Ode à la musique,
by Guillaume de Machaut.

1962

June 23: first performance of the Ode à la musique, conducted by the composer, at Bienne.

1963

• April 23: first performance of Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, in Geneva.

• May 23: Frank Martin conducts a concert of his own works, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as soloist. On the programme: Passacaille pour grand orchestreSechs Monologe aus Jedermann, Trois Extraits de ‘Der Sturm’, Concerto pour sept instruments à vent (recorded for DGG).

1964

• Spring: composes the short oratorio Pilate, commissioned by the European Union of Radio broadcasting.

• October 7: first performance of the Les Quatre Éléments, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, in Lausanne.

• November 4: first performance of Pilate, conducted by Armando la Rosa Parodi, in Rome.

• December: the composer makes a new version of Der Sturm.

1965

March: begins to compose the Concerto pour violoncelle et orchestre, commissioned by Paul Sacher.

1966

• March 3: Conference in Rome on ‘The composer’s responsibility’, followed by a performance on March 4 of Le Vin herbé, conducted by Mario Rossi.

• August: Begins to compose the Quatuor à cordes, commissioned by the Tonhalle-gesellschaft Zürich.

1967

• January 26: first performance of the Concerto pour violoncelle et orchestre, conducted by Paul Sacher, in Basel.

• April 11: Premiere of La Tempête (French version of Der Sturm) conducted by Ernest Ansermet, in Geneva.

• September-November: composes the Magnificat.

1968

• January 16: performance of Der Zaubertrank – the German version of Le Vin herbé – conducted by the composer, at the ‘Staatsoper’ of East Berlin.

• March: begins to compose the Concerto pour piano et orchestre nr. 2, commissioned by Paul Badura-Skoda.

• August 14: first performance of the Magnificat, conducted by Bernard Haitink, in Lucerne.

• November-December: composes Maria-Triptychon.

1969

• Winter-spring: composes Erasmi Monumentum, commissioned by the ‘Kunstkring Rotterdam’.

• April 29: conducts Der Cornet and the Petite Symphonie concertante, during a concert in Jerusalem.

• June 7: performance of In terra pax at the Sala Santa Cecilia in Rome, during a concert given for his Holiness Pope Paul VI who had requested programming this work. >

• November-December: composes the Ballade des Pendus, commissioned by the Lincoln Center of New York.

Frank Martin congratulated by H.H. Pope Paul VI after a performance of In terra pax, Rome June 1969

1970

• Winter-spring: composes the Trois Danses for oboe, harp and string orchestra, commissioned by Paul Sacher.

• June 1-6: shooting of a film dedicated to Frank Martin by TV suisse romande, lasting an hour and a half, in Naarden.

• June 10: performance of the Messe for double choir a cappella from 1922 in Gent, the first opportunity for the composer to hear the entire work which he had composed forty-eight years previously. Carl Voetterle, director of Bärenreiter Editions, asks permission to publish it.

• June 24: first performance of the Concerto pour piano no.2, conducted by Victor Desarzens, for French Television in Paris.

• October 9: first performance of the Trois Danses, conducted by Paul Sacher, in Zürich.

• December 29: Austrian premiere, in Vienna, of the Concerto pour piano no.2, conducted by Josef Krips.

1971

• February: begins to compose his Requiem.

• August 3-5: performances of In terra pax in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and Caesarea.

• December 12: first performance of Poèmes de la Mort, conducted by the composer, at the Lincoln Center, New York.

1972

June: begins to compose the Ballade pour alto et orchestre à vent, commissioned by the Mozarteum of Salzburg.

1973

• Winter-spring: composes the Polyptyque.

• May 4: first performance of his Requiem, conducted by the composer, in the Cathedral of Lausanne.

• May 27: performance of the Poèmes de la Mort, conducted by the composer, during the AMS Festival at Yverdon.

• September 9: first performance of Polyptyque, conducted by Edmond de Stoutz, in Lausanne.

• September – November: composes the Fantaisie sur des rythmes flamenco, for piano and dance ad libitum, commissioned by Paul Badura-Skoda.

1974

• Spring-summer: composes the cantata Et la vie l’emporta, commissioned by Zyma, Nyon.

• August 18: « matinée Frank Martin » at the Semaines Internationales de Musique at Lucerne, lecture given by the composer on ‘Schönberg et les conséquences de son activité’ and the first performance of the Fantaisie sur des rythmes flamenco by Paul Badura-Skoda and Teresa Martin.

 

Frank Martin, composing Naarden autumn 1973

1974

November 21: death of Frank Martin, in Naarden.

December 6: funeral ceremony at St-Pierre
and burial at the cemetery of Plainpalais, in Geneva.

Biography in English

Frank Martin (Geneva 1890 – Naarden 1974)

Frank Martin was born in Geneva, the city of Calvin, in 1890, as son of an influential pastor and the youngest of ten children. He is without doubt, with Arthur Honegger, the most important Swiss composer of the 20th century. On hearing Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion at the age of twelve, his vocation was determined. His only teacher was the composer Joseph Lauber, who introduced him to the post-romantic repertoire. Initially he was a supporter of neo-classicism following Ravel’s idiom. But in the 1930s, under the influence of the twelve-tone technique, Martin developed a very personal and more daring style which is very chromatic, but whose main lines are always linked to the idea of an enlarged tonality. 

Although he was largely self-taught, Frank Martin, known for his rhythm expertise, taught for a long time at the institute of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, the creator of eurhythmics (a concept in which music is learned and experienced through ­­move­ment). He even asked Martin to succeed him as head of his school, an honour which he declined in order to ensure his artistic independence. Martin was later appointed to teach at the Geneva Conservatoire and also set up the Technicum Moderne de Musique, where he met Maria Boeke who would later become his wife. 

His leading role in the Swiss composers’ circuit was apparent by his activities within all musical genres and the international interest in his work since the 1940’s. In 1946 he left Switzerland and settled in The Nether­lands, home-country of Maria, with whom he would have two children (he already had a son and three daughters from previous marriages). Initially he settled in Amsterdam, later he moved to Naarden where he devoted himself to composing in peace and where he remained until his death in 1974. The only appointment he accepted during his years in The Netherlands was that of teacher of composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne from 1950 to 1957. One of his pupils there was Karlheinz Stockhausen, who soon disassociated himself because of their incompatible ideas about the twelve-tone technique. 

Characteristic of Martin’s style of composition is an extreme lyricism, where melodic lines, often very pronounced and intense, are supported by constantly changing chords in the bass. Neither tonal nor atonal in the strict sense, his music demonstrates a most original response to the question which concerned all of the most important composers of the 20th century.

Due to his Calvinistic roots and the great popularity of his spiritual works, Frank Martin is often considered to be a Protestant composer par excellence. But that is just one aspect of his music. Although he has never denied his religious roots, Martin has always steered clear of any religious or musical dogmatism; he liked to say that he had faith, but not a specific religion.

Frank Martin often set German texts to music and found much inspiration in texts from the Middle Ages. Not so much for religious reasons but for the liveliness and sincerity of this literature, which is far removed from classical canons and gave him new inspiration. Also, his sense of humour, his open-minded attitude to jazz music and, at the end of his life, to pop music, reveal Martin as a composer who eluded all the great ‘schools’ of 20th century music. He was able to avoid the avant-garde’s obligations and thus to follow his own path. 

Alain Corbellari
(translation: Rachel Ann Morgan)

Biographie en français

Frank Martin (Genève 1890 – Naarden 1974)

Né en 1890 à Genève, Frank Martin, est le fils d’un pasteur influent de la Cité de Calvin et le dixième rejeton d’une fratrie de dix enfants. Il est sans doute, avec Arthur Honegger, le compositeur suisse le plus marquant du XXe siècle. À l’âge de douze ans, l’audition de la Passion selon saint Matthieu de Bach décide de sa vocation. Son seul maître sera le compositeur Joseph Lauber qui lui fait découvrir la musique post-romantique. Adepte tout d’abord d’un néo-classicisme d’obédience ravélienne, Martin évolue, dans les années 1930, sous l’influence du dodécaphonisme, vers un style très personnel et plus torturé, fortement chromatique, mais dont les lignes de forces restent toujours liées à l’idée d’une tonalité élargie.

Quoiqu’en grande partie autodidacte, Martin, qui fut un grand rythmicien, enseigna longtemps à l’Institut fondé par Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, le créateur de la gymnastique rythmique, et sera même pressenti par ce dernier pour lui succéder à la tête de son école, honneur que Martin, soucieux de conserver son indépendance d’artiste, déclinera. Martin enseignera aussi au Conservatoire de Genève, ainsi qu’au Technicum moderne de musique de la ville de la même ville, dont il fut le fondateur et où il rencontra d’ailleurs sa troisième épouse, Maria Boeke.

Chef de file des compositeurs suisses romands, Frank Martin s’épanouit dans tous les genres et connaît à partir des années 1940 une audience internationale. Il quitte la Suisse en 1946, pour aller s’établir aux Pays-Bas, patrie de Maria, qui lui donnera deux enfants (il avait déjà un fils et trois filles de ses précédentes épouses). D’abord établi à Amsterdam, il déménage ensuite à Naarden, où il composera sereinement et demeurera jusqu’à sa mort en 1974. Le seul engagement professionnel qu’il acceptera dans sa retraite hollandaise sera une charge de cours de composition qu’il assurera 1950 à 1957 au Conservatoire de Cologne. Il y aura en particulier comme élève Karlheinz Stockhausen qui, à la vérité, rompra assez vite avec lui, leurs visions du dodécaphonisme se révélant décidément incompatibles.

Son écriture est caractérisée par un lyrisme intense, dont les lignes mélodiques, très apparentes et volontiers véhémentes, sont soutenues par des accords constamment changeants de la basse: ni atonale ni tonale au sens strict, sa musique représente une solution très originale au problème que se sont posé tous les compositeurs importants du XXe siècle.

Ses origines calvinistes (son père était pasteur) et la grande popularité de ses œuvres religieuses ont souvent fait considérer Frank Martin comme un compositeur protestant par excellence. Ce n’est cependant là que l’un des aspects de sa musique et, s’il n’a jamais renié son imprégnation religieuse, Martin a su se garder de tout dogmatisme tant en matière de musique que de religion: il aimait ainsi dire qu’il avait une foi mais pas de croyances.

Il a par ailleurs souvent mis en musique des textes allemands et son inspiration s’est volontiers ressourcée dans les textes du Moyen Âge, moins, cependant, ici encore, pour des raisons religieuses que pour la verdeur et la franchise dont témoignait cette littérature éloignée des canons classiques et qui lui offrait la promesse d’un renouvellement de son inspiration. De la même manière, son goût de l’ironie, ainsi que son ouverture au jazz et même, à la fin de sa vie, à la musique pop font de Martin un compositeur échappant à toutes les grandes écoles de la musique du XXe siècle et qui a toujours su éviter les diktats de l’avant-garde pour frayer sa propre voie.

Alain Corbellari

Biografie in het Nederlands

Frank Martin (Genève 1890 – Naarden 1974)

Frank Martin wordt in 1890 geboren in Genève, de stad van Calvijn, als zoon van een invloedrijke dominee en als de jongste van tien kinderen. Hij is zonder enige twijfel, met Arthur Honegger, de belangrijkste Zwitserse componist uit de 20ste eeuw. Op twaalfjarige leeftijd bepaalt het horen van Bachs Matthäus-Passion zijn roeping. Zijn enige leermeester is de componist Joseph Lauber, die hem laat kennismaken met het post-romantisch repertoire. Aanvankelijk is hij een aanhanger van het neo-classicisme volgens het idioom van Ravel. Maar in de jaren 1930 ontwikkelt Martin, onder invloed van de dodecafonie, een heel persoonlijke en meer gedurfde stijl, die zeer chromatisch is, maar waarvan de hoofdlijnen steeds verbonden zijn met het idee van een verwijde tonaliteit.

Hoewel hij grotendeels autodidact is, is Martin – een groot ritmicus – lange tijd als docent verbonden aan het instituut van Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, schepper van de euritmica, een stroming waarin muziek wordt geleerd en beleefd vanuit de beweging. Deze vraagt Martin zelfs hem op te volgen als hoofd van zijn school, een eer waar hij voor bedankt uit zorg om zijn onafhankelijkheid als kunstenaar. Later krijgt Martin een aanstelling als docent aan het conservatorium van Genève en richt hij daar ook het Technicum Moderne de Musique op, waar hij zijn latere echtgenote Maria Boeke zal ontmoeten.

Zijn voortrekkersrol binnen het circuit van Zwitserse componisten spreekt uit zijn activiteiten binnen alle muziekgenres en uit de internationale belangstelling die zijn werk vanaf de jaren 1940 geniet. In 1946 verlaat hij Zwitserland en vestigt hij zich in Nederland, het vaderland van Maria, met wie hij twee kinderen zal krijgen (hij had al een zoon en drie dochters met zijn eerdere echtgenotes). Aanvankelijk vestigt hij zich in Amsterdam, later verhuist hij naar Naarden waar hij zich in alle rust aan het componeren wijdt en tot zijn dood in 1974 zal wonen. De enige aanstelling die hij gedurende zijn jaren in Nederland accepteert is een aanstelling als docent compositie aan de Hochschule für Musik in Keulen in de jaren 1950-1957. Een van zijn leerlingen daar is Karlheinz Stockhausen, die zich al vrij snel van hem los maakt vanwege hun onverenigbare ideeën over de dodecafonie.

Karakteristiek voor de schrijfstijl van Martin is een intense lyriek, waarvan de melodische lijnen, vaak zeer uitgesproken en intens, worden ondersteund door steeds wisselende akkoorden in de bas. Nóch tonaal, nóch atonaal in strikte zin, toont zijn muziek een heel originele oplossing voor de kwestie die alle belangrijke componisten uit de 20ste eeuw bezighoudt.

Zijn calvinistische wortels en de grote populariteit van zijn geestelijke werken maken dat Frank Martin vaak wordt beschouwd als een protestantse componist bij uitstek. Maar dat is slechts een van de aspecten van zijn muziek. Martin heeft zich, hoewel hij zijn religieuze wortels nooit heeft ontkend, altijd verre gehouden van enig dogmatisme op religieus of muzikaal gebied: hij zei graag dat hij wel geloof had in de breedste zin van het woord, maar geen specifieke religie.

Frank Martin heeft vaak Duitse teksten op muziek gezet en vindt ook veel inspiratie in teksten uit de Middeleeuwen. Ook in dit geval weer minder om religieuze redenen dan vanwege de levendigheid en de oprechtheid van deze literatuur, die verre staat van de klassieke canons en die hem nieuwe inspiratie biedt. Ook zijn gevoel voor humor, zijn open houding naar de jazzmuziek en zelfs, aan het eind van zijn leven, naar de popmuziek maken Martin tot een componist die ontsnapt aan alle grote ‘scholen’ van de muziek van de twintigste eeuw. Het lukt hem zich aan de verplichtingen van de avant-garde te onttrekken en zo zijn eigen weg te banen.

Alain Corbellari
(vertaling: Jacinta Wetzer)