> ROSSUM Twelve miniatures etc RG 86009 [HC]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frederik van ROSSUM (born 1939)
Twelve Miniatures Op.10 (1964)a
Eglogue et Conte bleu Op.24 (1971)a
Little Style-Studies Op.41 (1983)a
Three Short Pieces for the White Keys Op.31 (1974)a
Twelve Miniatures Op.13 (1966)b

Frederik van Rossum (piano)a; National Orchestra of Belgiumb; André Vandernootb
RENE GAILLY RG 86009 [70:41]

Rene Gailly

Frederik van Rossum was born in Brussels in 1939. His early works made it clear that he was one of the most personal Belgian composers of his generation. His regularly expanding output (now over fifty opus numbers) includes works in every genre: orchestral music, three symphonies, four concertos, chamber music, vocal and choral music (e.g. the superb Threni for soprano and orchestra Op.22 of 1969 and one of his finest works so far), a television opera De Soldaat Johan Op.33 (1976/7) and many works for his own instrument, i.e. piano. He has been fairly well served as far as commercial recordings are concerned though a number of major works, e.g. Threni and his second symphony Amnesty Symphony Op.38, are hitherto unrecorded. He once described himself as an expressionist composer for whom communication is paramount, no matter how complex or straightforward his music may be. His idiom is clearly 20th Century and not afraid of relying Ė always for expressionís sake Ė on various "modern" techniques including controlled aleatory as in Réquisitoire Op.28 of 1973, about which more later.

The present release, actually a re-issue in CD format of recordings published in 1973 and 1982, focuses on some of his best-known piano works, such as his Twelve Miniatures Op.10 completed in 1964. As may be expected, this substantial suite of twelve short pieces evoking a huge variety of moods is highly contrasted, each movement being neatly and concisely characterised. Van Rossum is an excellent pianist, so little wonder that his piano works suit the instrument so well. In this fairly early work, most of van Rossumís fingerprints are clearly evident: strong formal grip, rhythmic variety, sureness of touch and remarkable instrumental flair. Later, in 1996, at the request of the Jeunesses Musicales, he orchestrated the whole set as Twelve Miniatures for orchestra Op.13 with the self-explanatory subtitle of Initiation à líorchestration. Van Rossum nevertheless sees the orchestral version as a totally different piece in which the scoring is the result of the musical ideas, whereas the original work was clearly conceived for the keyboard. The Twelve Miniatures quickly became one of his most popular works (it has even been used as a ballet score) and it was heartily championed by the late André Vandernoot who recorded it in the 1970s (ALPHA 3075 F-1, re-issued here).

The small-scale diptych Eglogue et Conte bleu Op.24 (1971) shows another facet of van Rossumís music: gently lyrical, almost impressionist at times. Van Rossum often played it as an encore at his recitals.

Three Short Pieces for the White Keys Op.31 (1974) pay homage respectively to Stravinsky, Gorecki and Prokofiev without actually quoting any of these composers but rather by alluding to some characteristic of their music. Later, van Rossum orchestrated these short pieces while adding a newly-composed introduction as Petite suite réactionnaire Op.32 (1975).

The Little Style-Studies Op.41, completed in 1983, are exactly that, i.e. five short movements each of which explores some technical aspect of musical composition.

As already mentioned, all these recordings, but that of the Little Style-Studies Op.41, were made during the LP era, that of the orchestral Miniatures dating back to the 1970s. Nevertheless they still sound well and the performances could not be bettered. So, this welcome and recommended release is, to my mind, the best introduction possible to van Rossumís music.

Hubert Culot

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