Recently I reviewed a Phaedra
release with several chamber works by Ernest van der Eyken
(Phaedra 92047 - see review). It proved a real ear-opener.
So, I could not resist reviewing an earlier release with Van
output for strings. A professional string player, he writes
beautifully and effectively for strings, as is clearly to
be heard in these works as well as in the masterly Second
String Quartet. Moreover, the composer conducts most of these
pieces, which adds a touch of authenticity.
early Poëma completed in 1937 may still be
indebted to Post-romantic aesthetics and for this reason
slightly impersonal but the music already displays considerable
formal and technical mastery. This fine piece is neither
a prentice work nor a slavish imitation of earlier aesthetics;
but clearly points towards the composer’s mature style, which
will first flower in the Second String Quartet. Moreover,
the music fully displays the composer’s natural lyricism
free from any all-too-easy sentimentality.
ende Liedekens (“Refrains
and Songs”) is much lighter in mood. It actually consists
of fairly straightforward but expertly made harmonisations
of several old Flemish tunes. The music may remind one
of Vaughan Williams in lighter vein or early Frank Bridge
- his lovely Cherry Ripe. A delightful, unpretentious
work of great charm, which incidentally also exists in
a version for wind orchestra made in 1968 and one for
wind quintet made as recently as 2002.
the other hand, the Symphony for Strings completed
in 1967 is a major work in three succinct movements packed
with invention, with much stringent, athletic and virile
string writing, such as may be heard in Vaughan Williams’ Partita and Concerto
Grosso, or in Bridge’s late string quartets. The
beautiful central Andante is another example of Van der Eyken’s
unsentimental lyricism, and is framed by lively outer movements
of great strength and verve, in the case of the closing Allegro.
death of Van der Eyken’s wife in 1983 was a severe blow,
and it took several months of friendly persuasion to bring
him back to composing. The result is the poignant, deeply-felt Elegie
voor Bieke, which he completed several months later.
Again, and at the risk of repeating myself, the music is
strongly expressive without any sentimentality. A great piece
of music that deserves to be heard more often.
mentioned earlier, the composer conducts most pieces played
by an uncredited orchestra - probably the string section
of the Flemish Radio Orchestra, but obviously a full string
section of professional players - which plays superbly for
the composer-conductor. Elegie voor Bieke is
given a splendid, fully committed reading by the BRTN Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by that arch-champion of contemporary
Flemish music, Fernand Terby.
cannot but be grateful to smaller labels for recording and
releasing music of quality such as this. It is otherwise
all-too-often left gathering dust in CeBeDeM’s shelves. The
total playing time is rather on the short side, but this
should not deter anyone willing to explore unjustly neglected
musical byways, that often provide a most rewarding musical
and human experience.