Pieter van MALDERE (1729-1768)
Sinfonia in g minor, op. 4,1 [17:12]
Sinfonia in D, op. 5,1 [16:31]
Sinfonia in A (Viola Obligata)* [12:40]
Sinfonia a 4 in F* [12:22]
The Academy of Ancient Music/Filip Bral
Pavlo Beznosiuk, Pauline Nobes (violin)*, Rachel Byrt (viola)*, Thomas Pitt
(cello)*, Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo)*
rec. 20-21 October 2000, Academiezaal in St.-Truiden, Belgium. DDD
ETCETERA KTC 4036 [58:47]
When music historians describe how the music aesthetic of the baroque era
gradually made way for that of classicism the name of Pieter Van Maldere is
seldom mentioned. In his own time he was considered a pioneer of the newest
trends in music, in particular in the development of the symphony. Marc Vanscheeuwijck
begins his programme notes with a quotation from the Swiss lexicographer Johann
Georg Sulzer: "The symphonic allegros of the Netherlander van Maldere
can be considered to be models of this genre of instrumental music; they possess
all the afore-mentioned characteristics, and testify to the greatness of this
composer, whose untimely death has robbed art of many more masterpieces of
Pieter Van Maldere was the third of ten children of a schoolmaster in Brussels.
Little is known about his musical education, but it is likely he started as
a boy singer in the chapel of Charles of Lorraine, prince and governor of
the Austrian Netherlands. It is possible that Henri-Jacques De Croes, who
became first violinist of the chapel in 1744, was his teacher at the violin.
A document of 1746 mentions Van Maldere among the second violinists of the
chapel. In 1749 he became the leader of the orchestra. Charles of Lorraine
was clearly impressed with Van Maldere's capabilities as he promoted him as
much as possible. The good personal relationship allowed him to make concert
tours, for instance to Dublin. Here he directed the Philharmonick Concerts.
He also appeared at the Concert Spirituel in Paris where his performances
met praise in the Mercure de France: "This virtuoso has a beautiful
bowstroke, much precision, and ways all his own. His is a great talent".
Later in his career he developed into a kind of private musician to the prince.
He was able to compose and publish his music, and also became involved in
theatre productions, to which he contributed compositions of his own.
But it was first and foremost his contribution to the genre of the symphony
which constitutes his historical importance. Marc Vanscheeuwijk mentions several
of the formal aspects of his symphonies. For instance, the first and last
movements of his mostly three-movement symphonies show an early sonata-form.
Contemporaries noted especially the liveliness of the bass part. Johann Adam
Hiller wrote about the symphonies op. 4: "What specifically distinguishes
them from other symphonies, and makes them uncommonly brilliant, is the hardworking
bass, which is always in motion, whether producing excellent imitation or
strongly supporting and animating the most artistic unity". The symphonies
are also notable for their melodious character, often suggesting the influence
of folk music. The fast movements have infectious rhythms and there is an
unmistakable connection to the diverting music of the time. The two last symphonies
on this disc are especially noteworthy in this respect. They are played here
with single strings: two violins, viola, cello and theorbo. I don't know -
and the liner-notes don't tell - whether the composer himself required this
scoring. It would be interesting to hear them with a larger ensemble, but
the performances with one instrument per part work quite well.
This is not the first disc to have been devoted to music by Van Maldere. I
know of at least one recording of four symphonies by the Collegium Instrumentale
Brugensis, on modern instruments, probably dating from the 1980s; the disc,
which appeared on the small label Eufodia, fails to mention the recording
date. The present recording was originally released in 2001 by the classical
channel of Belgian public radio, and hasn't received that much attention,
as far as I know. Although the previous recording is quite good and gives
a good impression of Van Maldere's qualities, these performances by The Academy
of Ancient Music, playing on period instruments, is definitely superior. They
strike the right chord as far as the character of the music is concerned.
The melodies are beautifully played, the slow movements have a maximum of
expression, and the fast movements are sparkling and full of life. This disc
is a splendid effort by all participants. I would like to hear more of Van
Johan van Veen
Fine performances of early classical symphonies by an unjustly forgotten master.