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Flor PEETERS (1903 – 1986)
Concerto for Organ and Orchestra Op.52 (1944)a
Missa Festiva Op.62 (1946/7)b
Peter Pieters (organ)ab; Flemish Radio Orchestraa, Flemish Radio Choirb; Yoel Levia, Vic Neesb
Recorded: Sint-Rombouts Cathedral, Mechelen, Belgium, April 2003 (Organ Concerto) and Norbertijnenabdij, Tongerlo, Belgium, May 2003 (Missa Festiva)
KLARA MMP 041 [69:57]


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Flor Peeters’ name will probably be familiar to organ buffs. He was a brilliant concert organist as well as a composer who consistently wrote for his instrument throughout his composing career. His large output, however, also includes some piano and chamber music and a good deal of choral and vocal music (e.g. song cycles and six settings of the Mass), all of which is too rarely heard, let alone recorded, although Peeters recorded some of his organ works during the LP era. Needless to say, these recordings are now deleted and to date have never been re-issued in CD format.

The present KLARA release is thus a timely reminder of Peeters’ compositional achievement by presenting two major works composed at about the same time: the end of the Second World War.

In 1943, when Belgium was still occupied by German troops, Peeters was invited by a music-loving German officer to perform in Germany. Peeters declined the offer and, consequently, had to flee and seek refuge in the Norbertijnenabdij in Tongerlo where he was able to complete a projected organ concerto. This was completed on 31st December 1944, when the battle of the Ardennes was at its height. Although Peeters’ Organ Concerto Op.52 is a purely abstract work, it nevertheless reflects on the events of that period and on the circumstances of its composition. The first movement Allegro opens with a forceful drum roll (reminiscent, to my ears at least, of the drum roll traditionally introducing the Belgian national anthem) launching a bold heroic theme pervading the entire movement which rises up to some mighty climaxes interspersed by more reflective episodes. The song-like lyricism of the second movement Larghetto temporarily dispels the tension accumulated in the course of the first movement. The final Allegro vivo is preceded by a virtuosic cadenza. Trumpets launch the Finale, again mostly striving and heroic in character, and roughly laid-out as a powerful moto perpetuo ending in full blaze. Peeters’ modally inflected music often brings Vaughan Williams to mind; and, to a certain extent, this is the organ concerto that Vaughan Williams might have composed. More importantly still, it is a work that may unerringly be placed alongside those by Poulenc, Hindemith, Langlais, Dupré and Jongen. Peeters’ Organ Concerto Op.52 is, no doubt, a major addition to the repertoire of works for organ and orchestra, a work all too rarely heard, which makes this fine reading the more welcome. It was recorded in Sint-Rombouts Cathedral where Peeters was organist for many long years.

The conductor of the St Rombouts choir, who was also the director of the Lemmens Institute, asked several of his former pupils to compose Mass settings for the jubilee of the cathedral in 1946, which also roughly coincided with the liberation of Belgium. Because of some commitments, Peeters could not complete his Mass setting until 1947 and the Missa Festiva Op.62 for chorus and organ was first performed at St Rombouts on Christmas Day 1949. This is a large-scale setting of great fervour and energy, celebrating the end of the war while never losing sight of what the country had gone through during the war years. The music thus alternates meditative episodes and exultant outbursts, such as the pleading Kyrie, the powerful, march-like Credo or the moving Agnus Dei. Another long neglected major work, this is the most expansive of Peeters’ six Mass settings. The present performance, recorded in the church of the Norbertijnenabdij where the Organ Concerto was composed, is very fine indeed.

This is a most desirable release paying – at long last – a deserved tribute to a most distinguished composer whose beautifully crafted music definitely deserves wider exposure. A must, not only for organ buffs.

Hubert Culot



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