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De Haske


Piet SWERTS (b. 1960)
Wings (2002)a [24:12]
Centennial (1994)b [8:16]
Fantasy Tales (1994)c [10:39]
Shirim (1998)d [9:50]
The Titanic Saga (1998)e [16:53]
William Tyndale Overture (2202)f [5:35]
Piet Swerts (piano)a; Symphonic Band of the Lemmens Institutea; Johan Willem Friso Military Bandbdef; Royal Military Band of the Netherlandsc; Jan Van der Roosta, Jan de Haanb, Pieter Jansenc, Alex Schillingsde, Tijmens Botmaf (conductors)
rec. De Haske Sound Services, no date, published 2003
DE HASKE DHR 10.015-3 [75:59]
Over the last ten years or so, Piet Swerts regularly composed for symphonic wind band, for which he has an obvious flair, as the works here clearly show. In general, however, his music for wind band is simpler and more straightforward, technically and emotionally than, say, his Second String Quartet or his Second Symphony Morgenrot, the latter being one of his greatest works. He is also a brilliant pianist and a piano teacher, who has a wide-ranging knowledge of the repertoire. This shows in Wings, his fifth piano concerto. It is scored for symphonic wind band, and cast in three movements in the traditional pattern. In the first movement, by far the longest, Swerts re-visits the classical piano repertoire with allusions to and near-quotes of music by older composers, such as Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Rachmaninov, and fleeting references to Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, Poulenc’s Piano Concerto and Ravel’s G major Concerto. The slow movement is much simpler in design, actually a song without words of great lyrical charm and, to my ears, modelled on the slow movement of Ravel’s G major Concerto. However, it is first and foremost a fine example of Swerts’ natural lyricism. The third movement is a brilliant Toccata of great rhythmical verve. The piece never sounds as eclectic as one might think, and the whole work, kept tight by Swerts’ instrumental and formal mastery, is really enjoyable.

Mostly composed on commission, the other works here display Swerts’ versatility and expertise to the full. The music is likely to appeal in direct terms, but still challenges the players’ skills. So, Centennial, composed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Belgian Football Association, is a rousing march framed by a solemn introduction and a grand hymn-like coda. On the other hand, Fantasy Tales is a short tone poem evoking the history of the Dutch town Horn on the River Meuse; and the main theme is thus given to the horn section. A lively Allegro evoking the rural life of the city and its castle is followed by a short war-like episode alluding to the city’s occupation during the war. The piece ends with a triumphant restatement of the horns’ theme. This is, to my mind, one of the finest pieces here  and one worth wider currency among wind bands.

Shirim, subtitled A Klezmer Rhapsody, draws on a number of original Klezmer tunes used in such a way as to provide dynamic contrast. It ends with a joyful dance medley.

As might be expected, The Titanic Saga, A Symphonic Tone Poem, is rather more ambitious and, on the whole, more overtly programmatic. The music unfolds swiftly in a kaleidoscopic manner, with vividly scored episodes retracing the Titanic’s fateful journey.

The William Tyndale Overture was commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of the Horse Fair in Vilvoorde in Belgium, a most improbable occasion to evoke the English theologian burnt alive as a heretic and William Byrd whose anthem Sing joyfully unto God our strength is briefly quoted during the course of the piece. Some of the thematic material (A-B-D-E) is also derived from the name of Jean-Luc Dehaene, former Prime Minister and present Mayor of Vilvoorde. The musical result, however, is another fine piece of well-made occasional music with many fine touches of scoring.

Piet Swerts’ music for symphonic wind band is expertly done, attractive, accessible, challenging and rewarding to play and hear. These pieces should be eagerly picked-up by bands willing to have some less familiar pieces in their repertoire. The quality of the music is such that this nicely recorded and produced release should appeal to those who appreciate fine music-making. 

Hubert Culot


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