This most recent Sterling release (CDS-1088-2) brings back into
circulation a recording of the Dutch composer, Zweers’ Third
Symphony. It dates from the vinyl heartland of 1977 and will
be familiar to specialists of the Dutch national repertoire.
It last appeared in 1993 when it formed volume 4 of Olympia’s 400
Years of Dutch Music
series (OCD503). The now halted Chandos
Dutch series never picked up on Zweers so Sterling’s three
Zweers symphony discs make an ideal complement alongside the
very different works of Verhulst, Hol, Dopper, Voormolen and
The Zweers is a symphony of Brucknerian length across four graphically
titled movements. These are: I In the Dutch forests; II In the
country; III On the beach and at sea; IV To the capital. In this
work Zweers has come a long way from the heavily Germanic orientation
of the first two symphonies. He now deploys a brilliant palette
of poetic ideas and colouristic devices. There’s more than
a dash of passionate Tchaikovsky here, a flurry of Rimsky there.
The effect sometimes recalls Louis Glass’s much later Fifth
and the colouristic tone poems of Glazunov (The
and The Forest
) and Ludolf
. There’s some simply glorious writing for the
brass and the last movement harbours plenty of glowing examples
which also give off a pleasingly grating bite. I had wondered
if it would be all rather suite-like but there is a symphonic
steel to Zweers’ writing which makes this more than a merely
well-crafted pictorial indulgence. This is a symphony of lavish
duration but of well conceived and executed ideas deployed within
span for potential pleasure and no further.
It all works well and is aided by a close-up Decca-style recording
that unflinchingly plays all the orchestral details in the listener’s
lap. It’s a very agreeable effect and not at all claustrophobic.
There is the odd tape blip and faltering blemish - unsurprising
in an iron-oxide tape getting on for 35 years old - truth to
tell I noticed only one of each and those in the first movement.
This will appeal to those who love their nationalist programme
symphonies with a Tchaikovskian accent.
I am also including here a now-completed review of the Second
Symphony disc (CDS10612) from Sterling which I had shelved part-written
when two other reviews of that CD were submitted ...
With this disc of radio-sourced tapes of widely varying
vintage Sterling launch their Dutch Romantics series. It partners
Hyttner's German, Swiss and Danish Romantics series.
Zweers was active as a teacher until 1922. His pupils included
Daniel Ruyneman, Bernard van den Sigtenhorst Meyer, Willem Landré,
Sem Dresden, Anthon van der Horst and Hendrik Andriessen.
The overture boils with quiet and heart-warming confidence. It
radiates a glowing warmth derived perhaps from Brahms Second
Symphony with a satisfying blush borrowed from Richard Strauss.
This is not a work of busy bustle nor of dramatic gesture.
The Second Symphony is less well known than the Third Symphony
entitled To My Fatherland
(Aan mijn vaderland
Brawling and biting brass distinguish the first movement of the
Second Symphony. There’s an infusion of Schumann and Brahms
in the fabric (4.19 tr. 2). At 6:03 there’s a passage that
is playfully Beethovenian - redolent of symphonies 5 and 7. If
the brass affirmatives tends to crush the breath out of the music
there is no doubting its bull-in-a-china-shop triumphalism at
the end of the first and last movements. The second movement
is an Andante
with a lacy Delibes-like orchestration.
It’s not at all impressionistic. The sturdy regal quality
of this work is definitely 19th
century in feel and
squarely within the access established by Brahms (symphony 4)
and Schumann (symphony 2). In the movement there are some moments
of great and jovial buoyancy.
The Van Aemstel
music is in five predominantly earnest
- even grim - movements across almost eighteen minutes. The first
has considerable symphonic gravitas
with emotional turmoil
in evidence. The Brahms First Piano Concerto may be a model -
at least in mood. The Dies Irae
runs through tr.10 even
sporting echoes of early Sibelius: Kullervo
see also reviews of Symphony 2 (CDS10612) by Guy
Rickards and Ian
Lace and of Symphony 1 (CDS10682) by Rob Barnett