> CRAENS, KERSTERS etc [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Alain CRAENS (born 1957)
November Music (1999)a
Koen DEJONGHE (born 1957)

Jace, an Uncalled Answer (1998)b
Wim HENDERICKX (born 1962)

Dawn (1992)c
Jan DE MAEYER (born 1949)

Vijf Voor Acht Op.9 (1983)d
Luc VAN HOVE (born 1957)

Triptiek Op.29 (1993)e
Jan HADERMANN (born 1952)

Strijkkwartet (1973)
Marc VERHAEGEN (born 1943)

Convergences (1999)f
Willem KERSTERS (1929 – 1998)

Pianokwartet Op.53 (1970)g
Gaby Van Riet (flute)a; Sophie Hallynck (harp)a; Noëlle Schepens (mezzo-soprano)c; Joris Van den Hauwe (oboe)e; Tom Hermans (piano)g; Symfonieorkest Conservatorium Antwerpen; Robert Groslot (conductor)abde, Michael Scheck (conductor)c, Francis Pollet (conductor)f
Recorded: deSingel, Blauwe Zaal, Antwerp, December 1999, April 2000 and July 2000
KVC 2000.001 [63:50 + 58:05]

Composition Class: Willem Kersters. Thus the generic title of the present release. Indeed, all the composers featured in this double-CD set studied, at one time or another, with the late Willem Kersters at the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Antwerp and most of them are now teaching at the Antwerp Conservatory.

Willem Kersters was an influential figure of the Flemish and Belgian musical life. His large and varied output (more than 100 opus numbers) includes five sizeable symphonies (the Fourth is for alto and orchestra), a number of concertos (his Piano Concerto Op.69 was the test piece for the finals of the 1978 Queen Elizabeth Competition), a good deal of chamber music (with three substantial string quartets), orchestral music (including four ballet scores: Parwati Op.10 [1956], Triomf van de Geest Op.17 [1959], Halewyn Op.62 [1973] and Uilenspiegel de Geus Op.67 [1976]), choral music and a three-act opera Gansendonk Op.72 completed in 1982 and first performed in 1984. His Piano Quartet Op.53 was composed for the Quatuor Municipal de Liège of which Henri Koch was the first violin (as well as the leader of the Orchestre Symphonique de Liège, as it was then known). It is in three short and concise movements, of which the central Lento is inscribed to the memory of Henri Koch who died during the writing of the piece. The basic material of the Piano Quartet is derived from two main ideas stated in the very first bars of the piece. The whole work is a good example of Kersters’ ability to develop musically satisfying structures from often simple and limited material.

Craens’ November Music is actually a double concerto for flute, harp and orchestra in two main sections linked by a short cadenza and capped by an epilogue briefly restating the main thematic material. The first section is rhythmically free and quietly unfolds a freely, almost improvised melody whereas the second section is a lively, dance-like Scherzo. A sizeable, colourful and attractive work of great charm.

Jace, an Uncalled Answer by Koen Dejonghe is scored for a small mixed ensemble (8 winds in pairs, harp, 2 pianos, 4 violas, electric guitar, bass guitar and two female voices) that might compare with instrumental forces often used by Minimalists such as Reich, Adams or Louis Andriessen. The music, however, is neither minimalist nor repetitive, even if it may be fairly straightforward and often based on ostinati. The text sung by the solo voices is "written" in a totally invented language, which somewhat emphasises the humorous nature of this delightfully extrovert and entertaining work.

Some time ago, I reviewed a CD with music by Wim Henderickx, and I then remarked, as other writers did before me, that his music is often inspired either by some literary stimulus or by non-western cultures (as in his large-scale Raga cycle). Dawn for mezzo-soprano, small female chorus and ensemble is a substantial setting (in English) of three poems by the Lebanese poet Gibran Khalil (1883 – 1931). Henderickx’s setting of these beautiful and often simple texts is remarkably subtle and varied, with some very fine moments of ecstatic rapture enhanced by the ethereal voices of the chorus and the luminous scoring for small mixed ensemble. At times, the music made me think of Holst (e.g. the Rig Veda Hymns Op.26 No.3 for female voices and harp or the Bridges Part-Songs Op.44 for female voices and strings), but none the worst for that. Dawn is a beautifully lyrical and moving work that definitely should be heard more often.

Vijf Voor Acht Op.9 ("Five for Eight") by Jan De Maeyer is a suite of five contrasted character pieces for wind octet. The music has a most refreshing outdoor simplicity and never outstays its welcome. A very attractive work by all counts and a worthwhile addition to the rather limited repertoire for wind octet.

A few months ago too, I reviewed a double-CD set devoted to orchestral works by Luc Van Hove in which the Triptiek Op.29 for oboe and orchestra was also included. This, one of his finest works, is laid-out into three movements of which the long and emotionally charged middle movement is framed by two shorter, dreamy and song-like movements. The present performance is very fine indeed and Robert Groslot conducts an urgent, dramatic reading of the middle movement to great effect. A small grumble though: the oboe is a bit too closely recorded so that distracting noises (clicks) somewhat intrude, but never damagingly so.

Jan Hadermann’s String Quartet of 1973 is one of his earliest acknowledged works. This is a concise, superbly crafted work in which one senses the young composer flexing his muscles and, as it were, drawing an interim balance sheet of his musical progress at the time of writing. An utterly serious, well written and assured opus and, no doubt, a fine achievement in its own right.

Marc Verhaegen’s Convergences is scored for nine winds and string quintet. The latter is used en bloc to offset and compensate for the weight of the wind instruments that clearly carry most of the musical argument. This superb piece falls into three neatly contrasting sections, sharing some common thematic material, which considerably strengthen the global structure of the work.

All performances are quite good. The young players of the Antwerp Conservatory Orchestra play with all their heart and with communicative zest as well as much technical assurance, be it in the orchestral works or in the ensemble pieces. The recorded sound is quite good, and production excellent with notes on the composers and their works, though exclusively in Dutch.

This well-planned and varied selection of substantial works by distinguished composers offers an interesting, though far from comprehensive survey of the variety and the vitality of Flemish composers. This is definitely the sort of enterprise to be wholeheartedly encouraged.

Hubert Culot




Information concerning this double-CD set may be obtained from:

Koninklijk Vlaams Conservatorium

Desguinlei, 25

B-2018 Antwerpen

E-mail: secr@dptd.ha.be

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