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Paul GILSON (1865-1942)
Flemish Connection VI
La Captive: Suite from Act I - Ballet Pantomime compiled in 1995 by Frits Celis (1900) [22:53]
Andante and Scherzo for cello and orchestra (1906) [8:39]
La Mer – Symphonic Sketches for orchestra, eleven saxhorns, and men’s choir (1892) [34:38]
Timora Rosler (cello)
Flemish Radio Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
rec. 22-24 March 2006, Studio 4, Flagey, Brussels. DDD
World premiere recordings

Fellow Belgian Adolphe Biarent 1871-1916) was born six years after Paul Gilson yet died 26 years before him. They were almost contemporaries and Biarent’s masterly Contes de l’Orient speaks the same basic language as La Captive although Biarent had more flair and was a naturally brilliant colourist (see also a review of Biarent's Symphony). Both were instinctively attracted to the Russian nationalist school: especially Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Balakirev. You can hear this many times over the 66 minutes of this disc. There is even an irresistible Miaskovskian auburn wistfulness about the Crépuscule movement of Gilson’s La Mer. It is the longest movement of the four at 16:35 – a slow sunset of a piece. It is recognisable even when blended with the DNA of Debussy’s Faune and sinuously wound around echoes of Ravel’s Pavane. By the end of this movement a Delian warmth suffuses the pages. Then for the finale comes a melodramatic storm in which Rimsky and, most obviously, César Franck vie with each other. The opening Lever de soleil is grandly romantic with the brass at times Tchaikovskian. There’s even a touch of Dukas symphony. The second movement, Chants et danses de matelots has an exhilarating stomping Rimskian skirl with massive accenting from the drums and a Keel Row-style tune at 2:05. His decision to include a very brief role for a men’s chorus in the Tempest finale as well as eleven saxhorns speaks of the sort of hubris that Holbrooke, Bantock and Havergal Brian had in spades. Concert managements must have loved Gilson … not!
The suite from La Captive again takes us into ‘Thousand and One Nights’ landscapes with Borodin never far away – especially in the second and fifth movements – the latter especially sumptuous. The penultimate Fantasia movement is dervish-wild. The Andante and Allegro has a soulful and generous Bruch-like heart interspersed with music suggestive of the grand outdoors. The skittering cello part momentarily invokes the Elgar concerto. If I had not been told otherwise I might well have ascribed this work to Stanford.
Gilson wrote more than five hundred compositions but has made no headway into the standard repertoire. Even so there have been two notable commercial CDs before this one. The first was in 1987 on the now defunct Discover label. This was DICD 920126 and La Mer was played by the BRTNPO conducted by Karl-Anton Rickenbacher. The coupling was August de Boeck’s Symphony. There is also an all-Gilson CD from Marco Polo. This is 8.223809 and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Frederic Devreese. The works on offer from Marco Polo are La Mer; Melodies Ecossaises; the Prelude from Alvar and the Symphonic Overture No. 3. The Moscow La Mer is raw and with rough edges while the Discover version (long deleted) is not as vigorously recorded as the Etcetera disc. If you know of any other all-Gilson discs do tell me. I would also like to know about any major Gilson works recorded in the LP age.
Lavish late-romantic music influenced by the Russian nationalists.
Rob Barnett

This disc is the sixth in the Klara-Etcetera The Flemish Connection series:
* I (MMP024): Works by Peter Benoit, Flor Alpaerts, Norbet Rosseau, Arthur Meulemans, Vic Legley & Edgard Tinel
* II (MMP029): Works by Michel Brusselmans, Alpaerts, Lodewijk Mortelmans, Renaat Veremans & Frank van der Stucken
* III (MMP041): Organ concerto by Flor Peeters
* IV (KTC4002): Works by Peter Benoit, Mortelmans, Lodewijk de Vocht, Meulemans, Jef Van Hoof & Gaston Feremans
* V (KTC4013): Piano concerto by Arthur De Greef





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