Lekeu’s untimely death at the age of 24 was
a tragic loss for music in general and for Belgian music
in particular. At the time
of his death, he had showed himself much more than a
promising young composer; and his considerable output,
of which the Violin Sonata dedicated to Eugène Ysaÿe,
the Piano Quartet and Fantaisie sur deux Airs Populaires Angevins are
only the tip of the iceberg. Most other works remained
little heard, if at all, until the Belgian label Ricercar
released several discs that not only revealed the breadth
of his output but also the highly accomplished quality
of the music (see below).
substantial Piano Trio in C minor is
an ambitious piece of music displaying the young composer’s
formal mastery and strongly individual voice. The music
may still be indebted to Franck; but Lekeu’s warmly melodic
writing and harmonic world are entirely his own. As some
other composers from “la bande à Franck”, Lekeu managed
to steer clear of the all-too-obvious influence of his
teacher, while remaining true to cyclic form. The composer
seemed to have been dissatisfied with his piano trio, which
he found “much, much too long” and full of “unspeakable
horrors”. This severe verdict says much for Lekeu’s uncompromising,
self-critical attitude towards his music. These reservations
are rapidly washed away when listening to this imposing
and generous work full of passion, heartfelt lyricism,
sincere feeling and expressive strength. It is in four
sizeable movements: Lent-Allegro with forceful contrapuntal
and fugal writing, an impassioned Très lent, a shorter,
at times strongly articulated Scherzo with a more
lyrical central section, and a final movement in arch-form Lent-Animé-Lent of
great beauty, achieving – at long last – an appeased reconciliation.
de Greef, a pupil of Franz Liszt, made quite
a reputation as a brilliant pianist and a fine performer
of the music of his time. Grieg
regarded him as one of the finest performers of his music.
De Greef actually recorded Grieg’s Piano Concerto, if
I am not mistaken. He also composed a good deal of music
including two piano concertos (Marco Polo 8.223810),
songs, piano pieces and chamber music. As a composer,
de Greef remained faithful to romantic ideals, favouring
pure lyricism. His scores abound with indications such
as Dolce cantando e molto espressivo or Ben
cantando. No wonder, too, that de Greef composed
some nicely romantic songs.
Greef’s Piano Trio in F minor is quite close
stylistically to Lekeu’s trio written some forty years
earlier. The outer movements, both warmly lyrical and full
of élan, frame a beautifully peaceful and meditative Andante.
It may be hard to accept that this lushly romantic piece
was written in 1935; but there is no denying its expressive
strength and generosity.
young players of the Narziss und Goldmund Piano Trio -
they are all in their early thirties, though with some
impressive curriculum vitae - play with all their heart.
They obviously relish every ounce of this richly lyrical
and expressive music. The recording is very fine, although – I
suspect – a bit too close for some tastes. A very fine
release that may be safely recommended to all those who
want to know more about Lekeu’s music and those who enjoy
warmly expressive, late-romantic music.
Reviews of other works of Lekeu on Musicweb
Adagio for strings
Cello sonata & Three pieces for piano