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Arthur MEULEMANS (1884 – 1966)
String Quartet No.2 (1932)
String Quartet No.3 (1933)
Piano Quintet (1946)a
Herman MEULEMANS (1893 – 1965)

Five Piano Piecesb
Stijn Kolacny (piano)a; Steven Kolacny (piano)b; Arriaga String Quartet
Recorded: St. Jozefscollege, Aarschot, April 1996
PHAEDRA 92011 [57:32]


Arthur Meulemans, undoubtedly the most significant Flemish composer of his generation, has the lion’s share here, and deservedly so. His huge output includes fifteen symphonies, operas, many orchestral works and several concertos as well as a lot of vocal and instrumental music. His five string quartets roughly span the whole of his long and prolific composing life. His first essay (Uit mijn Leven) dates from 1907 and the Fifth String Quartet was completed in 1953. The Second and Third String Quartets (1932 and 1933 respectively) are, to a certain extent, transitional works still embedded in the early Romantic tradition but already clearly influenced by Impressionism. Both share a number of features, stylistically and formally. Both are conceived as suites of character pieces rather than as intricately worked-out compositions. There is little thematic relationship, if any, between the movements. Moreover, both are light-hearted pieces of great melodic charm rather than big pieces of great depth and complexity. These are engaging works, superbly crafted, richly melodic and beautifully written for the strings.

The Piano Quintet of 1946 (and not 1916 as I erroneously mentioned in my composer’s profile some time ago) retains most qualities of the earlier works. It too is in the nature of a colourful divertimento with a beautifully lyrical slow movement. Again it does not set out to plumb any great depths it is a quite attractive work.

Arthur’s younger brother Herman followed his brother’s steps. He too studied at the Lemmens Institute and later succeeded his brother as head of the Organ School in Hasselt. He composed a considerable amount of music which is largely neglected at the time of writing. The piano pieces recorded here (we are not told when they were composed) show him as a miniaturist writing salon music of quality, but light in tone and content. When listening to these charming vignettes, it is hard to imagine that Herman Meulemans had a great knowledge of modern music and was an admirer of Bartók’s music. In his insert notes, Denijs Dille, honorary director of the Bartók Archives in Budapest, recalls that it was Herman Meulemans who kindled his interest in early 20th Century music and in Bartók’s works.

So, in short, attractive works in excellent performances and good recording. Well worth having, were it only to convey an idea of Arthur Meulemans’ music in its lighter mood. It certainly whets one’s appetite for more Meulemans recordings. Phaedra is planning another disc entirely devoted to short orchestral works of Arthur Meulemans.

Hubert Culot



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