> Tota Pulchra Es. Flemish Sacred Songs [JW]: Classical Reviews- May 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Tota Pulchra Es. Flemish Sacred Songs
Jef Van HOOF (1886-1959)

Tota Pulchra es Maria
Emiel WAMBACH (1854-1924)

Peter BENOIT (1834-1901)

Tota Pulchra es
O gloriosa Virginum
Lodewijk De VOCHT (1887-1977)

Beloken Pasen (Paques fleuries)
Ave Regina Coelorum
Jesu allerliefste kind
Alphonse MAILLY (1833-1918)

Paques Fleuries
Flor PEETERS (1903-1985)

O Maria die daar staat
Lodewijk MORTELMANS (1868-1952)

Als de ziele luistert
O mocht ik
Edgar TINEL (1854-1912)

Gaston FEREMANS (1907-1964)

Maria Scone Vrouwe
Emiel HULLEBROECK (1878-1965)

Lieve Vrouw der lage landen
Remi GHESQUIERE (1866-1962)

O Maria die daar staat
Cristel De Meulder, soprano
Jan Van Mol, organ
Sarah Van Mol, soprano
Noelle Schepens, mezzo-soprano
Recorded September and October 1999 unspecified location
PAVANE ADW 7431 [60.14]
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Few will be acquainted with many of the composers on this ingratiating disc of predominantly vocal music. Flor Peeters will be the most familiar name but this is not the Peeters of polytonal or contrapuntal severity; this is Peeters the plangent lyricist, the pliant and yielding melodist. And this is indeed the tone of much of the rest of the CD – one of equability and repose, tinted with lyrical simplicity and affective writing. Van Hoof became Director of the Flemish Conservatoire and an avid embracer of Nationalistic trends in music making. His newly independent country also witnessed the revival of Catholicism and church. Cathedral restorations were mirrored in parallel developments in composition. His two pieces, recorded here, are the antithesis of his Nationalistic-Heroic style; the first is sweetly expressive with elfin organ registrations and the second has a little more piquant harmonic grit that helps to cauterise the endemic sweetness. The first organ solo is by Emiel Wambach, a little benign Priere whilst the second is by Callaerts. In spite of its title the Pastorale blends a reserved patrician profile with a more sturdy and outward-going impulse – the little march theme has subtle little modulations.

Many of the sacred songs are for voice – predominantly soprano and organ. Sometimes a second soprano and a mezzo join to add a layered depth to the songs or fill them with increased amplitude. In Benoit’s case, though, simplicity and gentleness are in the ascendant whereas De Vocht – who sang as a boy in the choir conducted by Wambach and succeeded him, utilises the larger group of three female voices. In Jesu allerliefste kind written when he was sixteen he already shows a lucid lyrical gift, if somewhat obvious in its progressions. The notes speak of the ethereal beauty of his settings; they are certainly lulling and beguiling but without a degree of interior drama that would elevate them beyond the merely decorative.

Improvisata by Tinel, doughty champion of the Flemish organ tradition, is rather Elgarian and immediately whereas Peeters’ reedy registrations in Abdijvrede are signs of his command of the organ. Mailly, like most of the composers recorded here, wrote prolifically for organ and reams of church music; he was part of a generation striving towards the musical emancipation of Flemish music and though he was to die in 1918 succeeding composers sought to use Flemish texts in their settings; with simple harmonised accompaniment the solo line was still too complex for congregational singing – but not for solo voices and this is very much the tradition this disc explores, one of the establishment of a national school, using a relatively sophisticated vocal line attached to a simple accompaniment which produces a lightness and delicacy of expression. It’s a limited form maybe but a still charming one and attractively presented in this well produced disc.

Jonathan Woolf

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