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Flemish Rhapsodies
Michel BRUSSELMANNS (1886 – 1960)
Flemish Rhapsody (1931) [12:30]
Maurice SCHOEMAKER (1890 – 1964)
Flemish Rhapsody (1931) [9:45]
Marinus de JONG (1891 – 1984)
Flemish Rhapsody (1935) [9:49]
Jean ABSIL (1893 – 1974)
Flemish Rhapsody, op.4 (1928) [13:32]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869 – 1937)
Flemish Rhapsody, op.56 (1936) [9:40]
August de BOECK (1865 – 1937)
Dahomeyan Rhapsody (1893) [4:38]
BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra (Brussels)/Alexander Rahbari
rec. 1992, Concert Hall of the Belgium Radio and Television (Flemish broadcasts), Brussels. DDD
TALENT DOM 291187 [60:02]

Experience Classicsonline



To be honest, if I had read about this disk I might think it to be some kind of April fool. After all, a disk called Flemish Rhapsody containing five works with the same title might seem to be rather over–egging the pudding. But this is no jest, for here are six very enjoyable, and colourful, works from composers whose names, with, possibly, two exceptions, will be new to you.

Brusselmanns was born in Paris, but studied with Paul Gilson - probably the first Flemish composer to compose a rhapsody for orchestra – Scottish Rhapsody (1886) - at the Brussels Conservatoire. He remained an isolated figure all his life. This Flemish Rhapsody is not based on any folk material, but that hardly matters for it’s a cogently conceived work, full of brilliant orchestration. There’s a particularly melting section for cor anglais about half–way through – and good (original) tunes. Why have we never heard this piece before? It’s got real charm and quite a bit of cheekiness about it, and some of the orchestration sounds a little like Constant Lambert! This is super stuff – a joy from beginning to end.

Schoemaker also studied with Gilson, as well as having lessons in counterpoint from Brusselmanns. He uses two folk tunes – a boisterous theme for the beginning and end and a slower, dreamier, idea for the relaxed, and contrasting, middle section. Perhaps not as colourful in its orchestration as the previous piece it is just as enjoyable.

Marinus de Jong was Dutch by birth but after studying in Antwerp he took Belgian citizenship and started his musical career as a virtuoso pianist. This work uses a number of folksongs and is in a freer, more rhapsodic, form than the earlier works. It’s restrained and discreet, nothing really festive about this music – it seems worthy rather than worthwhile.

Jean Absil was a Walloon and his wife came from Ghent, which is probably the reason for this work. Using four folksongs – one with the wonderful title The sneaky fisherman – this is a very fresh and delightful piece of light music. It sports luminous orchestration, well worked out ideas and is reminiscent of the lovely way that Grace Williams uses the Welsh Nursery Songs in her Fantasia on that material.

Albert Roussel was born in Tourcoing, which is just on the French side of the border with Belgium, so it’s not too unusual to expect him to have written this work. Using five 16th and 17th century Flemish tunes, Roussel creates a piece like the Absil, unpretentious and enjoyable.

Finally, August de Boeck’s Dahomeyan Rhapsody, the earliest work here which, strangely, is very reminiscent of Delius Dance Rhapsodies, yet it predates both of them by quite some time! This piece is a lovely romp and nothing else.

This is a most enjoyable collection of unknown pieces in very fine performances and is well worth investigating because the music is so delightful. The recorded sound is bright and clear and the notes in the booklet, are in Flemish, French, German and English. In general these are very optimistic pieces whose only desire is to entertain. You can’t ask for more than that from a piece of music.

Bob Briggs







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