Polyptyque, six images de la Passion du Christ
Pour violon solo et deux orchestres à cordes | Six images of the Passion of Christ, for violin solo and 2 string orchestras

Year of composition




Scored for

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

Publication information

Universal Edition (UE15834)


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 so. 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.
Frank Martin


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 de Stoutz, conductor
    (recorded 5-6.IX.1974, Victoria Hall, Geneva)
    EMI 5 099926 434421 - ℗ 2009 (FMS011)

  • ‘Frank Martin Concertos’
    Willi Zimmermann, violin
    Musikkollegium Winterthur
    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
    Zürcher Kammerorchester
    Edmond de Stoutz, conductor
    CALLO CD-713 ℗ + © 1992 (FMS127)

  • ‘Time & Eternity’
    Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin
    Camerata Bern
    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)

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