Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Trenmor - symphonic poem (1905) 15.54
Symphony (1908) 28.03
Two Sonnets for cello and orchestra (1909-13) 14.41
Luc Dewez (cello) Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège et de la Communauté Française/Pierre Bartholomée
rec Conservatoire Royal de Liège, 16-19 October 1995 CYPRES CYP3601 [58.53]
Purchase from:  Amazon UK

The Belgian composer, Biarent was much taken with the Russian orientalists - particularly Rimsky-Korsakov.

His Trenmor (based on an Ossianic legend) is suggestive of the alleys of some Hyperborean city as created by fantasy novelist Robert E Howard. The music has so many cross-references: Tchaikovskian, Dvorak's New World, an Italianate Verdian trenchancy, Dukas's L'Apprenti Sorcier, Bruckner, Rimsky, Glazunov and Wagner. It is richly enjoyable - in about the same league as Tchaikovsky's Voyevode, Liszt's Hunnenschlacht or Balakirev's Tamara.

We then turn to the four movement Symphony. This has a Wagnerian generosity of invention and a sprawling finale (the longest of the four movements at 13:12). This movement is touched with a buzzing rancorous angst and provides glimpses of Night on the Bare Mountain and the Valkyries in full flight. Biarent's favourite Rimskian leanings appear at 6.20 (track 5) in a luscious romance for solo violin. Balletic delicacy carried forward into other Belgian works such as Meulemanns' Third Symphony. The first movement of the Symphony has a similar set to the jaw - a storm beclouded urgency buffets the listener.

The whole work is lavish in a cornucopia of romantic detail. That detail is never excessive whether vertically or horizontally. While you can pick out the voices of Tchaikovsky (I thought of Hamlet several times while listening to this disc), Rimsky, Bruckner (listen to parts of the scherzo) and Wagner there is nothing prolix about the adagio and the vivace - respectively 4:37 and 3:13. In the hands of other composers of Biarent's romantic persuasion such musical material would have been spun out to at least ten minutes in each case. It is in Biarent's self-control and succinctness that one senses his approach to character. Biarent's influences are momentary references rather than the fabric for complete musical sentences or paragraphs. Think of Franck's full-length Psyche or D'Indy's Jour d' Eté dans les Montagnes or Bantock's Hebridean Symphony as the brethren of this work. The music has that same luxuriantly bejewelled and discursive effect.

Speaking of Bantock, the Two Sonnets (based on poems printed in the booklet, by Jose-Maria de Herédia) for cello and orchestra reminded me of the Bantock Sapphic Poem and Elegiac Poem for the same forces. Both are strongly evocative of those monochrome drawings by artist Virgil Finlay, of Delius's music for the souls of the unborn children in Hassan, and, in their serenity, the short cello pieces by Gabriel Fauré. They lean towards poetry rather than action although the second, Floridum mare has a fey virtuosic cello part played ppp - very much a wraith-like perpetuum mobile.

I have lived with these two discs for more than four months now and can recommend them very strongly. (


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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