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Ernest VAN DER EYKEN (b. 1913)
String Quartet No.2 (1943)a [18:28]
Twee melodieën (1942)b [8:46]
Trio per flauto, violino e viola (1989)c [20:38]
Sonatine voor Sofie (1983)d [6:36]
Concerto per otto strumenti a fiato (1999)e [15:46]
Maté Szücs (viola)b; Jozef de Beenhouwer (piano)bd; Denis Pierre Gustin (flute)c; André Siwi (violin)c; Thèrèse Marie Gilissen (viola)c; Nuove Musiche String Quarteta; Wind Ensemble Bellerophon, Jan de Maeyere
rec. Studio The Right Place, Brussels, January 2006 (String Quartet No.2, Twee melodieën, Sonatine); Royal Music Conservatory, Brussels, January 1999 (Trio); (live) Festival of Flanders, Mechelen, October 2000 (Concerto)
In Flander's Field Vol 47


At ninety-three, Ernest van der Eyken is the doyen of Belgian composers. A viola player, teacher and conductor, he also managed to compose a number of works in almost every genre. This brand new release provides a fine survey of his output; the pieces recorded here span more than fifty years of his composing career. The earliest dates from 1942-1943 and the most recent from 1999. This varied programme also demonstrates Van der Eyken’s breadth of outlook, which is quite remarkable when one considers that his early training at his hometown’s conservatory (Antwerp) was solid but firmly rooted in the late-Romantic tradition. The composer realised that he needed to broaden his horizon, and did so by studying the music of the Second Viennese School on his own. This clearly shows in his mature music.

Twee melodieën (1942 – viola and piano) and the Second String Quartet (1943) are rather tense and harmonically stringent. True to their title, Twee melodieën are certainly warmly melodic, but the music is far from easy-going. Although it is deeply lyrical, the music is free from banal sentimentality and often darkly elegiac. The Second String Quartet is a compact work in four concise movements in which no note is wasted, and in which the composer successfully blends tradition and modernism. The music – and the work as a whole – often brought Frank Bridge’s late string quartets to mind, and quite by coincidence, for I doubt that Van der Eyken was aware of these major works by Bridge at the time he composed his Second String Quartet. Anyway, this is undoubtedly the most substantial work in this selection. Again, one cannot but wonder why music of such quality as this has not firmly entered the repertoire.

The most recent works heard here were composed between 1983 and 1999, and are generally lighter in tone, though in no way lightweight. The delightful Sonatine voor Sofie is a concise, perfectly shaped and proportioned sonatina. The music is somewhat Neo-classical, and often reminded me of the refined and elegant Joseph Jongen; none the worse for that.

The Trio per flauto, violino e viola and the Concerto per otto strumenti a fiato (wind octet) are more in the form of superbly crafted divertimentos, in which the composer obviously enjoys himself in exploring unusual instrumental combinations. He gives full rein to his natural lyrical gifts, particularly in the slow movement of the Trio or in the slower sections of the Concerto.

Phaedra have already released a disc with music by Van der Eyken conducted by the composer (Phaedra 92018), but I had never heard his music before. This superbly crafted, serious and sincere music certainly deserves to be heard, and I hope that these fine performances will help bringing it to a wider audience. It is simply too good to be ignored. Give this release a try and I am sure that you will not be disappointed.

Hubert Culot


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