> Romantic Flemish Composers Vol 2 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Romantic Symphonic Music by Flemish Composers - Vol. II
Jef VAN HOOF (1886-1959)

Symphony No. 2 (1941) [32.32]
Lodewijk MORTELMANS (1868-1952)

Mythe der Lente (1895) [10.28]
Peter BENOIT (1834-1901)

In de Velden - Song for oboe and string orchestra (1869) [1.58]
Arthur MEULEMANS (1884-1966)

Symphony No. 7 Zwaneven - Een Heidesymfonie (Swan Heath - A Fenland Symphony) (1940) [29.02]
Joost Gils (oboe)
VRT Philharmonic Orchestra/Silveer Van den Broeck
rec. Magdalenzaal, Brussels, 24-26 April 1996 DDD
MARCO POLO 8.225101 [74.24]

Marco Polo got as far as two volumes of romantic orchestral music by Flemish composers. This is the second and, for me, its central attraction is the Seventh Symphony of the Flemish impressionist-symphonist, Arthur Meulemans.

Van Hoof's Second Symphony is in four movements glowing with romantic-classical confidence derived at one moment from Brahms and at another from Borodin. The first movement starts with the same supernal quietude as Bliss's Blow Meditation but the turbulent aspirational tone owes much to Brahms' Fourth Symphony with some moments both in the first and third movements nostalgically nationalist, as if in echo of Miaskovsky. Feints in the direction of impressionism, closer to Dukas than to Ravel, can be found in the third movement. A toy soldier's pomp struts through the last movement sharing the landscape with the sort of romance we find in the stronger Glazunov symphonies (4, 5, 8).

Mortelmans Myth of Spring blethers away light-heartedly blending Vaughan Williams' Wasps overture, with the innocence of Quilter children's overture and the delicacy of Tchaikovsky and Borodin. More so than in the Van Hoof the strings seem rather tired and tetchy here.

The microscopically small (less than two minutes) In the Fields by Benoit is a charmer which might have been penned by Grétry. A gemlike bonne bouche which would have won fame if only Léon Goossens and Beecham had discovered it.

The Meulemans’ wartime Symphony is the most 'advanced' work on the disc. It seems to speak of the fenland suggested by the title: bleak and romantic, dank and haunting (first and third movements), spidery, impressionistic (Ravel is surely his maitre in the second movement), sometimes raucous and ‘mécanique’, à la Markevich, in the second and final movements. The upstart finale rattles cages with a danse des guerriers that is part Ravel, part Antheil. You can read more about Meulemans in Hubert Culot’s profile of the composer elsewhere on this site.

A collection at full price for explorers. Those with access to mainland Europe’s shops may well find it in one of the bargain price Belgian or French Naxos Patrimoine reissues.

Not devastatingly original music but no shortage of charm (Benoit), of confident nineteenth century Brahmsian manners (Van Hoof), of nationalism strongly Slav-peppered (Mortelmans) and of imaginative impressionism (Meulemans). Freshen your reactions with these works enthusiastically put across, decently annotated and vividly, recorded.

Rob Barnett


Romantic Symphonic Music by Flemish Composers - Vol. I
De BOECK Fantasy on Two Flemish Songs
Jan BLOCKX Flemish Dances
Paul GILSON Sailors’ Dances
Arthur MEULEMANS (1884-1966) Symphony No. 3 Fir
Lodewijk MORTELMANS (1868-1952) Morning Mood
Marcel POOT Cheerful Overture
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels/Alexander Rahbari
MARCO POLO 8.223418


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