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CD: Crotchet

Piet SWERTS (b. 1960)
Fantasia para un Marqués (2001) [18:37]
Peter CABUS (1923 – 2000)
Concerto classico per chitarra ed archi (1999) [17:26]
Jozef van LOOY (1927 – 2001)
Concerto voor gitaar en orkest (1980) [27:28]
Wim Brioen (guitar)
Slovak Sinfonietta, Zilina/Tom van den Eynde; Ivo Venkov (van Looy)
rec. Concert Hall, Zilina, Slovakia, 29-30 August 2007 (Swerts, Cabus); 12-13 September 2008 (van Looy). ADD
In Flanders’ Fields – Volume 57
PHAEDRA 92057 [63:55]
Experience Classicsonline

I have already had the opportunity to review several discs devoted to music by Piet Swerts. To avoid repeating myself, I suggest referring to some of my earlier reviews for biographical information (see below). Swerts’ prolific output includes several concertos, of which Fantasia para un Marqués completed in 2001 and inscribed ‘In memoriam Joaquin Rodrigo’ is scored for guitar and string orchestra. The Fantasia consists of a set of variations on the theme by Gaspar Sanz used by Rodrigo in his celebrated Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (1954). This is capped by a lively dance movement Buleria with an ashamedly Spanish character.
The late Peter Cabus was a prolific composer with a substantial and varied output in almost every genre, though his music has still to receive its due in terms of public performance and recordings. He was often labelled as a neo-classicist. In fact, he also ventured into more complex territories such as bi-tonality and even serialism, while preserving classical values. This translates into formal clarity, clear-cut thematic material and lively, if at times angular rhythms. Harmonically, his music is not without sharper edges and dissonance, but never at the expense of expressivity. His Concerto classico for guitar and strings is one of his last works. Its three movements possess a clear dance-like character, albeit at times tinged with nostalgia and melancholy. Although his music may sometimes be austere, the Concerto classico is attractive and often beautiful.
Jozef van Looy’s name and music are completely new to me. Jaak van Holen’s concise but well informed notes mention that besides being an organist, choir director, teacher at the Lemmensinstituut and the Antwerp and Maastricht conservatories, he also composed a substantial output including chamber music, orchestral works and an opera. His Guitar Concerto is by far the most substantial work here. It is also the most serious - dramatic even. It is scored for standard symphony orchestra. The very opening sets the scene with some tense writing. The music is not without dissonance and harmonic stringency. The first movement ends abruptly, unresolved. The slow movement is based on fragments from his mass Justus ut palma annually performed in St. Gummaruskerk where Van Looy was organist and on a carnival song by Frans Boogaerts (1888–1950), Van Looy’s predecessor at the church. After a short meditative introduction played by the strings, the guitar muses alone giving way to Boogaerts’ carnival song in the woodwind. Further reflection from the guitar leads into an aggressive, short-lived orchestral outburst. The dialogue is then resumed, alternating meditative fragments over soft string accompaniment and lively snippets of the carnival song. The final movement opens with a fierce outburst from the orchestra leading into some forceful music alternating with calmer or lighter episodes. Some turbulence, however, remains to disrupt the flow of the music. Another brief climax is followed by some pensive music, but the work remains as ambiguous and undecided as ever. A cadenza eventually leads into the orchestra’s final outburst, without achieving any real resolution or reconciliation. I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Van Looy’s music and I certainly look forward to hearing more. His Guitar Concerto is a valuable and most welcome addition to the repertoire.
These three concertos were composed for and/or dedicated to Wim Brioen who plays beautifully throughout with superb technique and remarkable musicality. The Slovak Sinfonietta supports him with fine playing and endearing commitment in scores that must have been new to them. The recorded sound is quite good although one may notice a difference in clarity in the recording of Van Looy’s concerto, which may be due to the hall’s acoustics. There’s nothing serious enough to spoil one’s enjoyment of this very attractive and ultimately rewarding release.
Hubert Culot

Reviews of other compositions by Piet Swerts
Droombeelden - Phaedra 92038
String quartet 2, Clarinet quintet - Phaedra 92045
Symphony 2 - Phaedra 92052
Wind music - De Haske 10.015-3

Reviews of other releases in the In Flander's Fields series


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