Marinus de Jong was born in the Netherlands where he started
his musical education. He took this on to the next level at the
Royal Flemish Conservatoire in Antwerp. He spent his long and
busy creative life in Belgium although he toured widely as a
concert pianist during the earlier part of his career. A photograph
of him in Hollywood (of all places!) is printed in the insert
notes. Although he also held a number of academic appointments
at the Lemmens Institute and - later - at the Royal Flemish Conservatoire
in Antwerp, he composed throughout his long life. His large and
varied output includes short piano pieces such as are recorded
here, a lot of chamber and vocal music, orchestral works, ballets,
operas and choral-orchestral pieces such as his large-scale oratorio Hiawatha’s
(1947) setting Longfellow’s poem in
Dutch translation by Guido Gezelle.
His music is mostly imbued with late Romanticism at times tinged
by light touches of Impressionism. It changed little over his
long composing career. Some works were somewhat influenced by
Gregorian plainchant which he studied during World War I at the
Benedictine Abbey of Oosterhout. This can be easily traced in
some of the pieces recorded here such as the Violin Sonata and
the Third Piano Sonata.
The Sonata “Pacis, Doloris et Amoris” Op.18
violin and piano is in three movements opening with an Allegro
in which the influence of plainchant may be spotted.
This is followed by a meditative Nocturne
with a fairly
impassioned climax. The sonata ends with a playful Rondo
The music is often virtuosic and tightly contrapuntal not always
without a hint of César Franck.
De Jong often performed his Piano Sonata No.3 Op.31
his recitals. This, too, is an imposing piece although it is
rather more compact than the earlier Violin Sonata. It is in
a series of substantial movements, with a short cadenza-like
bridge section between the second and fourth movements. The first
movement is a tightly worked-out sonata-form. The second is probably
the most original in that it is a set of variations on an original
theme “in Gregorian style”; it makes for a lot of
contrast. The short cadenza-like bridge section leads into the
Finale combining rondo and fugue. Unsurprisingly, the music is
superbly laid-out for piano and is again rather demanding.
Lentetover op Huize Meizang Op.176
comparatively late work composed in 1977, but the music is clearly
from the same pen as the other works here. This short fantasy
seems to look back to earlier times recollected in tranquillity.
Again, the first part of Gaudeamus & Meditatio Op.8
violin and piano harks back to Gregorian chant since it is based
on the Introitus de Festo Omnium Sanctorum
. This is followed
by a somewhat more developed meditation.
This generously filled release ends with several short piano
pieces, all dating from roughly the same early period. Nocturno “De
vertorte Blomme” Op.4
is the earliest, composed
shortly after World War I. It was quickly published with the
title “In Memoriam”, but a few years before his death
De Jong erased that title to replace it with the rather enigmatic “De
vertorte Blomme” (“The Mangled Flower”) for
which he provided no clue. Both Valse-Caprice Op.13
(no opus number) are beautifully wrought miniatures
and the music speaks for itself; it is not without some unexpected
harmonic twists. The Two Etudes Op.55
not written as a diptych. The first study Wervelwind
was composed around 1947 whereas the second Praia de Rocha
Beach”) was written in 1954 - the title recalls a seaside
resort of that name in the Algarve, Portugal, where the composer
once spent a holiday. Wervelwind Op.55 No.1
composed as a test-piece for the final piano exams at the Antwerp
Conservatoire and was devised to test both the technique and
the musicality of the finalists. In its design it succeeds brilliantly.
It is quite a fine work beyond its didactic purpose.
As already mentioned earlier in this review, Marinus de Jong’s
music is mostly warmly late-Romantic, often lyrical and tuneful.
It is superbly well served by these performers. It is very nice
indeed to hear Ning Kam again. She won the second prize of the
2001 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Jozef de Beenhouwer
is a most respected and distinguished pianist and a staunch champion
of Belgian and particularly Flemish music which he plays with
full technical mastery as well as with most convincing musicality.
In short, this is an admirable release that should appeal to
anyone with a particular liking for warmly lyrical late-Romantic
music. There is much to enjoy here.