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Johan WAGENAAR (1862-1941)
Levenszomer - Fantasy for orchestra op. 21 (1903) [14:37]
Sinfonietta op. 32 (1917) [21:13]
Ouverture De Philosophisches Prinses op. 39 (1932) [5:17]
Elverhoi, Symphonic Poem op. 48 (1940) [12:38]
Aveux de Phèdre op. 41 (1935) [13:45]
Larghetto for oboe and orchestra op. 40 (1934) [7:05]
Janny Zomer (soprano); Ingrid Nissen (oboe)
Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra/Eri Klas
rec. Muziek Centrum van de Omroep 1, Hilversum, 20-21 December 2000, 22-24 January 2002. DDD
ETCETERA KTC1326 [73:35] 


Experience Classicsonline

The Dutch composer Johann Wagenaar ended his days as director of Royal Conservatory in The Hague (1919-1937). He emerged from a troubled childhood and studied with Herzogenberg in Berlin. There are 32 often programmatic orchestral works in a style influenced by Brahms, Strauss, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky. Symphonies and string quartets do not appear in his catalogue.

Has the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra ever sounded so resplendent before? Have they ever had a better excuse? 

Levenszomer (Life's Summer) is pastel shaded yet voluptuous. It’s in a language caught in time between Elgar's Serenade and In the South, Louis Glass's Fifth Symphony and Schoeck's Sommernacht. The mood is one of flowing energy, contentment and a confident plenitude. 

The Sinfonietta is in four movements and is one of his rare pieces of ‘pure music’. It is dedicated to the University of Utrecht. The soothing yet springy first movement is reminiscent of Brahms 2 yet touched with a Delian wand. The second movement has a serene Mahlerian redolence; Wagenaar conducted Mahler 3 and 4. The molto allegro (III) is strongly athletic and a flighted Mendelssohnian energy lofts it high. There is a contrasting lovely sentimental counter-melody. The finale too has some Mahlerian additives and there’s some fine bustlingly boisterous work for the brass. 

The overture De Philosophische Prinses is a fugal style chatteringly exuberant overture. Its mood is not far distant from that of Wagenaar’s The Taming of the Shrew; an overture recorded by Van Otterloo. Wagenaar is partial to a singing and probing lyrical counter-idea and does not disappoint here. This overture is well worth programming as a change from the normal ‘starters’ - somewhere between Tchaikovsky and Massenet. 

Elverhoi - his very last work - is another symphonic poem but here woven in a Delian lull around relaxed echoing faery fanfares. The pace soon gathers momentum and begins to surge with a broad energy which is eventually replaced by some searching slivery writing for romantic strings. The lambent and smiling mien of this music recalls Levenszommer. It's most beautifully performed and recorded. 

Aveux de Phèdre is for soprano and orchestra. The orchestration rather reminded me of Dukas. It is stormily operatic - like a scena-soliloquy. It could easily have been drawn from some early twentieth century French grand opera although - rich choux though it is - the orchestration is less smugly adipose. It tells the story of Phèdre's torment, torn between her love for two men and only able to resolve the tension in suicide. The words are reproduced in full in the booklet. 

The little Larghetto might easily have come from Bantock's warm Mediterranean elysium as in the Pagan Symphony and in Sibelius's incidental music. Nissen's ochre-toned oboe is in almost constant beneficently singing engagement. 

The notes are by Shulamith Brouwer, the Wagenaar authority. They are fine but why are the dates of these works not given. 

Other CDs in the Etcetera Dutch Composers series include Röntgen’s Cello Concertos (KTC1329), Orthel's orchestral works (KTC1359) and the choral orchestral music of Joep Franssens (KTC1321). 

After hearing this you will want to hear more Wagenaar. Back in November 1990 Decca issued an all-Wagenaar disc in which the Concertgebouw were conducted by Riccardo Chailly: 425-833-2 (De getemde feeks, Op. 25 (1909); Amphitrion; Driekoningenavond, Op. 36 (1927); Wiener Dreivierteltakt, Op. 38 (1929); Saul en David, Op. 24 (1906); Cyrano de Bergerac, Op. 23 (1905); De Cid, Op. 27 (1915)). 

Warming and songful music with the romantic redolence of Bantock, early Delius and Dukas.

Rob Barnett


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