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]
Flemish Radio Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
rec. 22-24 March 2006, Studio 4, Flagey, Brussels. DDD
World premiere recordings KLARA ETCETERA KTC4017 [66:10]
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
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 anexhilarating 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.
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
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