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.
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.
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.
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.