Year of composition
violin solo and 2 string orchestras
(Dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin, the Zürcher Kammerorchester and its conductor Edmond de Stoutz)
I. Image des Rameaux. Allegro non troppo ma agitato
II. Image de la Chambre haute. Andante tranquillo
III. Image de Judas. Allegro
IV. Image de Gethsémané. Molto lento
V. Image de Jugement. Largamente
VI. Image de la Glorification. Andante - Allegro moderato
When Yehudi Menuhin and Edmond de Stoutz asked me to write for them a concerto for violin and string orchestra I immediately had the inward conviction that after the masterpieces in this field left to us by Johann Sebastian Bach it would hardly be possible for me to do go. I thought it would be more in order to write a suite of relatively short pieces, a succession of pictures on a subject I was as yet none too sure about. It was when, in Siena, I saw a polyptych by Duccio – a set of very small panels representing the various episodes of the Passion – that the idea of attempting something of the same kind in music forced itself upon me. But music is not a representational art, and an actual representation of the scenes, just as I had been able to study them, was out of the question. The several scenes that I wished to evoke, therefore, I could only imagine in my mind, as alive as it was possible for me to do go. After that, I endeavoured to transpose into music the emotions that these scenes aroused in me.
And so, in the Image des Rameaux, I visualised a noisy crowd pressing forward to see the Lord entering Jerusalem, surrounding and acclaiming Him; I felt also the presence of Christ, whose higher consciousness rises above this tumult and knows how human and fragile this momentary glory is, and I entrusted the expression of it to the solo violin.
In the Image de la Chambre haute we have the farewell that Christ addresses to His disciples, the anguished questions put by them, and His loving replies.
The Image de Judas portrays a being full of anguish, tormented at heart; it is a picture, above all, of a soul in the grip of an obsession and finally collapsing in despair.
The Image de Gethsémané is the anguish of loneliness, the intense prayer « Let this cup pass away from me » and, finally, total acceptance: « Thy will be done ».
The Image du Jugement shows the full horror of the crowd freed from all restraint, its sadistic joy in the contemplation of suffering; and then, it is the way of the Cross.
Having arrived at this point, I felt that there was no other possible ending save an Image de la Glorification.
That is what I thought and felt in writing this Polyptyque. Whether I have succeeded in translating into music these wholly private impressions is another question: perhaps, with some people, this music will be able to help them to recreate within themselves the se pictures of the Passion; for others they will be pieces, more or less interesting, more or less successfuI, for solo violin and two string orchestras. The fact of being able to rely on the lofty personality of Yehudi Menuhin sustained me in my task, and it was with absolute confidence that I wrote the part for the two small orchestras with Edmond de Stoutz and his excellent Zurich Chamber Orchestra in mind.
World premiere: Lausanne, 9 September 1973 (on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Conseil International de la Musique). Yehudi Menuhin, violin; Zürcher Kammerorchester; Edmond de Stoutz, conductor
Recordings (selective list)
Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Menuhin Festival Orchestra & Zürich Chamber Orchestra
Edmond der Stoutz, conductor
(recorded 5-6.IX.1974, Victoria Hall, Geneva)
EMI 5 099926 434421 - ℗ 2009 (FMS011)
‘Frank Martin Concertos’
Willi Zimmermann, violin
Jac van Steen, conductor
MDG 901 1539-6 © + ℗ 2008 (FMS097)
Marieke Blankenstijn, violin
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Thierry Fischer, conductor
DG 435 383-2 ℗ 1992 (FMS142)
Muriel Cantoreggi, violin
German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Christoph Poppen, conductor
ECM 2015 ℗ 2008 (FMS002)
Zbigniew Czapczynski, violin
Edmond de Stoutz, conductor
CALLO CD-713 ℗ + © 1992 (FMS127)
‘Time & Eternity’
Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin
Alpha Classics / Outhere Music France ℗ + © 2019
Georges-Emmanuel Schneider, violin
I Sinfonietti 01
Kai Röhrig, conductor
CCR62071 © + ℗ 2010 (FMS004)
Slobodan Mirković, violin
Belgrade Strings ‘Dušan Skrovan’
Aleksandar Pavlović, conductor
RTB CD 430102 ℗ 1991 (FMS101)
Gottfried Schneider, violin
Münch Chamber Orchestra
Hans Stadlmair, conductor
KOCH CLASSICS 3-6732-2 ℗ + © 1999 (FMS178)