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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

alternatively Crotchet

 

Hendrik ANDRIESSEN (1892Ė1981)
Variations and Fugue on a theme of Johann Kuhnau (1935)a [13:28]
Symphony No.3 (1946)b [24:37]
Variations on a theme of Couperin (1944)c [12:57]
Symphony No.1 (1930)d [13:14]
Ricercare (1949)e [10:35]
Symphony No.2 (1937)f [16:59]
Symphonic Study (1952)g [11:07]
Symphony No.4 (1954)h [24:07]
Adriaan Bonsel (flute)c; Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; Jaap van Zwedena, Jean Fournetbgh, Willem van Otterloocf, Albert van Raalted, Edo de Waarte
rec. May 2005 (Kuhnau Variations, Ricercare), September 1968 (Symphony No.3), January 1965 (Couperin Variations), May 1947 (Symphony No.1), January 1969 (Symphony No.2), September 1962 (Symphonic Study) and May 1982 (Symphony No.4)
ETCETERA KTC1307 [64:42 + 63:21]
 


In much the same way as the Koppel family in Denmark, the Andriessen family is steeped in the arts and in music. Hendrikís older brother Willem was a pianist, an organist and a composer as well. Louis (b.1939) and Juriaan (1925Ė1997) are composers. Cecilia is a pianist and piano teacher. Heleen is apparently a pianist too Ė at least in her youth, and Nico is an architect.
 
Although he held several academic positions in the Netherlands until his retirement in 1957, Hendrik Andriessen composed regularly and left a sizeable output, the backbone of which is to be found in his four symphonies and several concertos as well as various miscellaneous orchestral works. Because of his academic commitments, he composed on Sundays and during holidays, and used to put his scores fairly quickly onto paper when most of them were ready in his mind. He generally composed straight into full score. He built a considerable reputation, and he is one of the foremost Dutch symphonists with his near-contemporary Matthijs Vermeulen (1888Ė1967) and Willem Pijper (1894Ė1947) whose masterly Symphony No.3 was much performed by the Frenchman Jean Fournet who also conducted a lot of Andriessenís music.
 
As a composer, Hendrik Andriessen favoured classical and even pre-classical forms, as the individual movements of some of his symphonies clearly show; but he was a staunch admirer of Debussyís music and, late in life, took-up some twelve-tone writing without ever adhering strictly to it. So, this release provides a fairly comprehensive survey of his symphonic output from 1930 to 1954, although he composed till late in his life: his Cello Concertino (1970), Oboe Concertino (1970) Violin Concerto (1969) and Chromatic Variations (1970).
 
Andriessenís first major orchestral work was his Symphony No.1 completed in 1930, dedicated to and first performed by van Beinum conducting the Haarlemse Orkest Vereniging. It is a compact piece in four movements, of which the first is by far the most developed. The first movement opens with a slow, imposing introduction leading into an Allegro moderato section. The other movements (Andante tranquillo, Allegretto grazioso and Allegro agitato) are all fairly short, and make for a progressive build-up in intensity till the final peroration. This substantial work is heard here in a performance recorded in 1947 and conducted by Albert van Raalte, a reading that had impressed Cecilia Andriessen and one that clearly deserved to be restored into the current catalogue. The recorded sound shows its age but it has been neatly remastered. Composed a few years later, the Variations and Fugue on a theme of Johann Kuhnau for string orchestra are based on a theme from the Minuet of Kuhnauís Partita No.6 which Andriessen had heard his daughter Heleen practising. This very piece may be Andriessenís best-known work, and it is not difficult to understand why. It is packed with invention and of beautiful string writing, and the whole is readily accessible and wholly attractive. Cecilia Andriessen recalls a funny anecdote opposing his father and his friend the composer Peter van Anrooy who obviously objected to the French-inflected parallel fifths! The music here, as that in many other works by Andriessen, may bring to mind the sound-world of Vaughan Williams and even that of Britten (the Frank Bridge Variations). It is a delightful and immensely enjoyable work that never outstays its welcome.
 
The Symphony No.2, completed in 1937, is in three movements roughly recalling those of the Baroque suite: Fantasia, Pavane and Rondo. In this work, too, Andriessen is drawing nearer to Pijper, whom he admired but never tried to emulate. However, it is a tougher work than its predecessor, and its idiom more advanced and somewhat more austere, although the inner logic at work makes it more readily accessible than, say, any symphony by Vermeulen.
 
Two major works were composed during the war years, but are completely different in character. The Variations on a theme of Couperin for flute, harp and string orchestra are not dissimilar to the earlier Kuhnau Variations. It is a lovely work that strongly contrasts with the Symphony No.3 completed in 1946, an imposing piece in which one can certainly hear the composerís reaction to the war years. Though less tense than, say, Vaughan Williamsí Sixth, it often brings RVW to mind; try the stark first movement. It may be less difficult than the Second Symphony but it is certainly an impressive achievement, that makes its point directly without undue fuss. This is a major work and one that deserves a permanent place in the repertoire.
 
The Ricercare, composed a few years later, is again in full contrast with the symphony. This is a sunny, uncomplicated work in which Andriessenís contrapuntal mastery is effortlessly displayed. This colourful, superbly scored work should be a popular concert opener and again deserves wider exposure.
 
As mentioned earlier in this review, Andriessen, as many of his contemporaries, toyed with twelve-tone writing, although he never strictly adhered to dodecaphonic principles. The twelve-tone rows that he used in his Symphonic Study and his Fourth Symphony are viewed as themes rather than anything else. Symphonic Study, which the composer described as ďthe result of my laboratory workĒ is based on a single tone-row, and each of the four concise movements is based on different versions of the row. The end result is far from what SchŲnberg or Webern would have achieved. What comes through is Andriessenís contrapuntal mastery - a trademark of his - and the remarkable invention displayed in this work, seen by some as a try-out for Andriessenís final symphony. My view is that the Symphonic Study is Andriessenís long-delayed homage to Willem Pijper.
 
The Symphony No. 4, completed in 1954, is also based on a tone-row heard at the outset, but which the composer uses more as a cantus firmus. In many respects, the Fourth Symphony is a major, substantial work which Louis Andriessen considers as ďthe most painfully movingĒ of his fatherís works. The Fourth Symphony clearly demonstrates that Andriessen was never happy to repeat himself and always trying to find some new way of expressing himself with complete honesty. Again, the comparison with Vaughan Williams might be made; for he, too, was not afraid of exploring new harmonic worlds, even in his late years. The music of Andriessenís Fourth Symphony is strongly uncompromising, while retaining its expressive strength. I do not doubt that the Fourth Symphony is the peak of his symphonic output, and Jean Fournetís splendid reading, recorded in 1982, does this mighty piece full justice.
 
This release is most welcome for it helps in our reassessment of the remarkable symphonic achievement of an important composer, and fills a considerable gap. Pijperís and Vermeulenís symphonies have already been recorded and are generally available, whereas Andriessenís symphonies had been somewhat neglected. True, these recordings of the Second and Third Symphonies were once available on a long-deleted LP (Donemus DAVS 7071-3). There have been no commercial recordings of the First and Fourth Symphonies. Now, Andriessenís stature as a symphonist may no longer be ignored.
 
These recordings are all from the same source, but from widely different periods. All have been neatly transferred, and the overall sound is much more than acceptable. The performances are superb and I was delighted to be able to hear Fournetís magnificent reading of the Fourth Symphony.
 
This beautiful set is wholeheartedly recommended to all those who love symphonic music from the first half of the 20th century, have a liking for French music of the inter-war years and who admire, say, Vaughan Williamsí music. Not to be missed.
 
Hubert Culot
 

 

 



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