Frank Martin
(b. Geneva, 15 September 1890; d. Naarden, Netherlands, 21 November 1974)

Maria-Triptychon ("Marian Triptych," 1967-8) for soprano, solo violin and orchestra


Frank Martin was one of the most distinguished Swiss composers of all times and probably, along with Arthur Honegger, the supreme representative of his métier in French-speaking Switzerland. His large-scale vocal works in particular place him among the most remarkable composers of the twentieth century. His compositions include two operas, Der Sturm after Shakespeare's The Tempest (1952-4, premièred in Vienna on 17 June 1956) and Monsieur de Pourceaugnac after Molière (1960-62, premièred in Geneva on 23 April 1963); the oratorios Le Vin herbé on the Tristan legend (1938-41), In terra pax (1944-5), Golgotha (1945-8) and Le Mystère de la Nativité (1957-9); Der Cornet, a song cycle for alto and chamber orchestra after Rilke's Die Weise von Liebe und Tode des Cornets Christoph Rilke (1942-3); Maria-Triptychon for soprano, solo violin and orchestra (1967-8); and a setting of the Requiem (1971-2). Some of these works have long been extraordinarily popular, and the number of performances, especially of Golgotha, continues to increase a full thirty years after his death. His instrumental music likewise places him among the outstanding figures of his day, and a large number of his works have become a living part of the international concert repertoire. Several of his compositions, including the one in the present volume, will appear for the first time in miniature score in the Repertoire Explorer series.

Having completing his short oratorio Pilate for four solo voices, mixed chorus and orchestra after Arnoul Greban (it was premièred in Rome on 14 November 1964 by the chorus and orchestra of Italy's National Broadcasting System, conducted by Armando la Rosa Parodi), Martin wrote a Cello Concerto for Pierre Fournier in 1965-6 (it was premièred by the dedicatee and Paul Sacher in Basle on 26 January 1967) and his only String Quartet in 1966-7 (premièred by the Tonhalle Quartet in Zurich on 20 June 1968). These works were then followed by the Magnificat, of which Martin later wrote as follows:
"In 1967 I composed a Magnificat for soprano, solo violin and orchestra at the request of the violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan [he had already given the première of Martin's Violin Concerto under Joseph Keilberth in Vienna on 16 May 1953] and his wife, the soprano Irmgard Seefried. At first it was performed by itself in Lucerne, but it soon became clear to me that the Magnificat required a surrounding musical frame. I therefore added an Ave Maria and a Stabat Mater to form what might be called the two flanking panels to the central panel and gave it the title Maria-Triptychon –Marian Triptych."
The first part to be premièred was the Magnificat at the Lucerne Festival on 14 August 1968, with the work's begetter, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and Irmgard Seefried taking the solo parts and Bernard Haitink conducting the orchestra. The complete Maria-Triptychon was heard for the first time with the same soloists in Rotterdam on 13 November 1969, this time conducted by Jean Fournet. Our edition of this lastingly successful tripartite piece marks the first time it has appeared in a study format.

Christoph Schlüren, 2004.

Translation: J. Bradford Robinson, 2004.

For performance materials please contact the publisher Universal Edition, Vienna (

Reprinted with kind permission of Universal Edition AG, Vienna, 2004.