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Joseph RYELANDT (1870–1965)
Piano Quintet in A minor Op.32 (1901)a [22:16]
Adagio in F sharp minor Op.13 (1895) [7:23]
String Quartet No.2 in F minor Op.36 (1903) [22:00]
Andante “Ach Tjanne” and Variations (1933)b [6:16]
Jozef de Beenhouwer (piano)ab; Joost Magerman (double bass)b; Spiegel String Quartet
rec. Academiezaal, Sint-Truiden, Belgium, 17-19 December 2007
PHAEDRA PH92055 [57:59]


Experience Classicsonline

Baron Joseph Ryelandt was born into a wealthy French-speaking family from Bruges in which music making was a tradition. His father died when he was seven and he complied with his mother’s wish that he should study law at the University of Leuven. Music, however, was his main concern and he was able to discontinue his studies at the University to study with Edgar Tinel. Ryelandt was Tinel’s only private composition pupil. From 1895 up to 1945, he was one of the most respected post-romantic composers in Belgium with a hugely varied output to his credit. This ranged from short piano pieces to large-scale choral-orchestral works as well as a one-act mystery La parabole des Vierges Op.10 and a three-act music-drama Cecilia Op.35. Ryelandt held strong religious beliefs so that his vast output is signposted by a great number of religious works such as his oratorios, one of which, the magnificent Agnus Dei Op.56 (1913/4), was once available on Marco Polo 8.223785-6. His Symphony No.4 in B flat minor Op.55 (1912-3) for chorus and orchestra is based on the Credo from the ordinary mass. There are several masses and many shorter choral works on sacred texts. Ryelandt also composed five symphonies and some orchestral music as well as a profusion of chamber works amongst which number piano pieces, songs and four string quartets.

The earliest work here, Adagio in F sharp minor Op.13 is the only surviving movement from one of the several string quartets that he composed in the early stages of his career. In this early work Ryelandt already displays a considerable contrapuntal mastery. That aspect will remain a hallmark of his entire output, not least so in the later large-scale choral-orchestral works.

The Piano Quintet in A minor Op.32 completed in 1901 is a much more assured and personal work although Franck’s influence may certainly be spotted throughout this accessible and often attractive score. It has remained one of Ryelandt’s most popular works. The work is in three movements. The stirring Allegro moderato is followed by a deeply-felt Andante religioso which is actually a set of variations on a chorale-like theme. It contains some of his most endearing music. The finale is rather weightier and in it themes from both preceding movements are briefly restated. The coda of the third movement clearly harks back to the music from the Andante religioso before speeding up to its emphatic conclusion.

The somewhat later String Quartet No.2 in F minor Op.36 is another substantial work completed in 1903. The opening Allegro moderato is followed by a longer, warmly lyrical Andante, the real emotional core of the entire work. The nervous Scherzo and the somewhat lighter Finale are played without a break. The composer revised the work, later making several cuts and this revised version is generally considered definitive. However, the earlier, uncut version was preferred for this recording.

The Andante and Variations “Ach Tjanne” for piano sextet was completed in 1933. It is much more of an occasional piece written as part of a collective work to be composed with Meulemans, Van Hoof and Roels, each composer sharing a movement. In his Notices sur mes oeuvres, Ryelandt stated that he thought that the other composers did not do their part of the job. He was wrong because Meulemans composed a Scherzo for piano sextet based on an old Flemish folk song whereas Van Hoof composed a first movement Moderato based on a medieval ballad Het daghet in den Oosten. It seems, however, that no trace was found of Oscar Roels’ contribution. The lack of any performance at that time might be the reason for Ryelandt’s erroneous statement. In fact the three existing movements were only performed in 1988! As may be expected, this is a somewhat simpler work consisting of a short set of variations on an old Flemish ballad. This tells how three little children go to their mother’s grave, where her spirit appears to them without being able to comfort them (I owe this piece of information to Jozef de Beenhouwer’s concise but informative insert notes). This short piece is nevertheless quite well-made and well worth more than the occasional hearing.

Ryelandt’s often heartfelt and beautiful music is deeply rooted in tradition, most notably that of Franck. The composer nevertheless eschews any pathos or all-too-obvious ponderousness. His music thus retains a most welcome lightness of touch. All the works here are played with obvious affection and conviction, so that this well-produced release should appeal to anyone with a liking for warmly lyrical, melodic and deeply sincere music. My only grumble about this otherwise most desirable release is its comparatively short playing time. Another string quartet or the Second Piano Quintet might have filled the bill.

Hubert Culot


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