Jean Absil was one of the most distinguished Belgian composers
of his generation with a sizeable and hugely varied output to
his credit. This ranged from short didactic piano pieces to full-evening
operas and included many orchestral and chamber works as well
as vocal and choral music. He also composed several pieces either
for brass band or wind band, some of them being arrangements
of differently scored pieces. His Danses bulgares Op.103
originally written as a piano suite but was soon arranged for
wind band and for wind quintet, which is what we have here. This
delightful work is one of his most readily attractive pieces
- unpretentious but superbly done.
André Souris may be a somewhat lesser-known composer although
he was closely associated with the Belgian Surrealists, among
whom we find René Magritte. His output is quite eclectic
including a lot of short pieces often characterised by irony
and incongruous instrumental associations. There are also some
rather more serious works, though these too are far from conventional.
His extraordinarily funny Rengaines
tunes”) is a short suite of nine miniature character pieces
such as Galop, Pastorale, March Romance, Waltz, Polka and the
like, the whole with more than a mere pinch of salt or irony.
This is the sort of work that would become highly popular if
wind quintets were aware of its existence.
Joseph Jongen’s Deux pieces Op.98
to one of his most fruitful periods. The two movements of this
diptych display the composer’s elegant Neo-classicism to
the full. The second panel, Dances
, often hints at the
rustic dance tunes heard in Jongen’s music.
I have already had several opportunities to write about Frederik
van Rossum whose music I still find unbelievably underrated.
There is just too little of it still available on disc. It is
always nice to have some piece of his available in recording,
especially when that piece has long lingered in obscurity. Originally
composed for clarinet quartet as Op.19, it was later arranged
for wind quintet as Pyrogravures Op.19bis
fairly early work already displays many of van Rossum’s
hallmarks, be they rhythmic formulae or melodic gestures. The
scoring has appropriate bite and stringency perfectly suited
to the title which may roughly translate as ‘etchings’.
Michel Lysight is a Canadian-born composer who has lived in Belgium
for many years. His most recent music is somewhat characterised
by simplicity in formal design and by warmly melodic lines. He
founded the New Consonance Ensemble which says much for his present
stylistic orientation. The Sextuor
for piano and
wind quintet, of which this is the second recording, is no exception.
Although the composer admits that American Minimalism was an
influence, the music of the Sextet does not really fit that mould.
Lysight’s repetitions, when they occur, display a greater
variety. This is a tuneful, lyrical work of great melodic charm.
I cannot welcome too strongly this excellently played and nicely
recorded overview of some of the most attractive Belgian works
for wind quintet. There are still many more that should be given
attention some day. In the meantime, this is a release to be
enjoyed from first to last.