Jef MAES (1905 – 1996)
Concertante ouverture (1961) [6:55]
Arthur MEULEMANS (1884 – 1966)
Concerto for Orchestra No.1 (1953) [18:12]
Concerto for Orchestra No.2 (1956/7) [19:20]
Norbert ROSSEAU (1907 – 1975)
Scherzo from Concerto for Orchestra No.1 Op.37 (1947)
Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
rec. deSingel, Antwerp, 10-12 February 2011

The generic title of this disc is somewhat misleading and thus calls for some explanation. From the above details Meulemans clearly has the lion's share with his two Concertos for Orchestra. Jef Maes' sparkling and brilliantly scored Concertante ouverture is – as its title makes it clear – a real overture though one with scoring for instrumental groups that take on the role of soloists. This delightful work was composed for De Philharmonie - the Royal Flemish Philharmonic; - now known as deFilharmonie - as an eightieth birthday tribute to Marcel Baelde, the president of the Royal Harmony Society. It is an occasional work, albeit one that achieved some considerable and highly deserved success due to its catchy themes and colourful scoring. It has become one of Jef Maes' most popular pieces although there are many other important works of his still waiting for brand new recordings.
Arthur Meulemans’ two Concertos for Orchestra feature prominently in this release. I have already had the opportunity to write about Meulemans and his music here; suffice it to say that he has an enormous output to his credit in every musical genre. Orchestral music, however, has pride of place with fifteen symphonies and numerous miscellaneous orchestral works. The First Concerto for Orchestra is a very fine example of Meulemans' music-making be it in terms of melodic and harmonic writing or of scoring. Meulemans found his own voice quite early in his career and remained faithful to it till the end. The First Concerto for Orchestra is no exception with its mix of motoric rhythms and colourful scoring. The music is full of vitality though it manages to pause for the slow and quite beautiful third movement. The work is rounded off by an energetic Finale. Though composed some three years after its predecessor the Second Concerto for Orchestra is somewhat different. The thematic material is hardly that for it consists mostly of fragmentary ideas. The melodic content is less conspicuous than in the First Concerto. However this relatively new approach seems to point to some further development in Meulemans' music making that did not really materialise during the last years of his composing career.
Norbert Rosseau was a quite prolific composer although his music is now rather neglected. He too composed in almost every genre. He even composed electronic music. Vocal music represents an important part of his sizeable output. At one time he achieved some success with his delightful work for children's choir and orchestra Zeepbellen Op.69 (1959). This was recorded many years ago during the LP era and cries out to be recorded again. His concert music, however, is generally fairly traditional characterised by clear-cut themes and very effective scoring. He, too, composed two Concertos for Orchestra (Op.37 – 1947 and Op.86 – 1963). Curiously enough only the Scherzo from the First Concerto for Orchestra has been recorded here for no obvious reason. However, that movement certainly whets one's appetite for the complete work.
This disc is one of the first three released by deFilharmonie on their own label. Brabbins conducts obviously well prepared performances that cannot be faulted and the recording does full justice to these colourful scores. I hope that this label will be able to continue what I regard as a brave pioneering effort that needs to be encouraged. I would nevertheless voice a mildly negative comment about the shamefully short playing time of this release which would have clearly allowed for the inclusion of another complete work rather than that of just a movement from Rosseau's First Concerto. Another remark would be that movements should be indexed and playing times printed either in the booklet or on the back cover. In short, this is a most desirable release that should appeal to any follower of Meulemans and to lovers of well-crafted and attractive music of the last century.
Hubert Culot

A very fine programme of unusual works somewhat let down by the short playing time.