Marinus de JONG (1891 - 1984)
Sonata “Pacis, Doloris et Amoris” Op.18 (1927)a [22:59]
Piano Sonata No.3 Op.31 (1934) [18:13]
Lentetover op Huize Meizang Op.176 (1977) [5:48]
Gaudeamus & Meditatio Op.8 (1923)a [8:49]
Nocturno “De vertorte Blomme” Op.4 (1919) [3:26]
Valse-Caprice Op.13 (1926) [3:07]
Valse-Impromptu polytonale (1931) [4:39]
Two Etudes Op.55 (1947/1954) [4:51]
Ning Kam (violin)a; Jozef de Beenhouwer (piano)
rec. Academiezaal, Sint-Truiden, Belgium, 20 December 2007 (Piano Sonata No.3) and 16-19 December 2008 (other works)
PHAEDRA 92061 [72:09]

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 lied Op.37 (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 for violin and piano is in three movements opening with an Allegro pastorale 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 in 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 is a 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 for 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 and Valse-Impromptu polytonale (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 were not written as a diptych. The first study Wervelwind (“Whirlwind”) was composed around 1947 whereas the second Praia de Rocha (“Rocky 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 was 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.

Hubert Culot