Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Carlo Martelli: Symphony, Op.4 (1955-56)

Apart from a few pieces of ‘light’ music such as Persiflage and the Jubilee March, I have never heard any significant work by the London born composer Carlo Martelli. This present Symphony is certainly an eye-opener and is in a totally different league to these more ephemeral pieces – at least from the point of view emotional power, concentration and architecture.
There are four things that need to be said about this excellent Symphony. Firstly, although it may not be the greatest example of the genre from its era, it is a fine, important work that is both challenging and interesting and compares favourably to symphonies by Frankel, Searle and Gardner. Secondly, one needs to bear in mind that the composer was only 19 years old and was still studying at the Royal College of Music. Although there is nothing precocious about this music, it is a superb early work that any composer would and should be immensely proud of. There is much here that is original, in spite of some nods to Shostakovich and other contemporary figures. Thirdly, the quality of the instrumentation shows great skill and imagination – much of the score is unsettling but the use of colour and texture is satisfying. And finally, it is hard to believe that a work which showed such promise has been virtually ignored for over half a century. I know that this has affected many symphonies by British composers from this era, but in Martelli’s case it is especially unfortunate as the work was initially widely fêted and was then subsequently forgotten.


This work has been released on Dutton Epoch CDLX7270 and can be purchased from the Dutton Vocalion Wepage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a note that Carlo Martelli is one of the finest arrangers for string quartet alive. I had the privilege of playing quartet gigs with him regularly (he's a fine violist as well as composer) for the year I studied in London, more than twenty years ago. Then his arrangements were available only from him, photocopied; since then, a large number have been published by Broadbent & Dunn, though many (including, alas, all the Gershwin) remain unavailable in the US due to copyright issues.

I should note that he spent much of his early career writing film scores, including the classic (?) Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.