Wim HENDERICKX (b. 1962)
Tejas (2009) [37:00]
Skriet (1993) [5:45]
Le visioni di paura (1990) [11:20]
Variations (1988) [13:20]
Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
rec. Queen Elisabeth Hall, Antwerp, 23-25 June 2010
Some may remember that I reviewed a disc of Henderickx's music devoted to his Raga cycle (Megadisc MDC 7833). Now comes another one of orchestral music spanning his present composing career. The earliest work was composed in 1988 and the most recent in 2009. This allows a fair appraisal of Henderickx's progress over the years.
Tejas (What does the sound of the universe look like?), to give the work its full title, is by far the longest and most substantial work here. It is also the most complex in terms of structure. The booklet, actually an interview with the composer, gives a fairly detailed overview of the structural lay-out. This falls into several, highly contrasted sections playing continuously for over half an hour. The work opens with a massive chord (“a kind of primordial big bang”) that contains the seeds of much of the ensuing music. A close scrutiny of this imposing score - something definitely beyond my own skills - would surely confirm the tight working-out of the basic material as contained in that opening chord. The music possesses a formidable energy that is maintained throughout this fairly long piece with remarkable imagination and inventiveness. One is never really aware of the size of the piece because the composer succeeds in creating endlessly changing musical landscapes. These are by turns powerfully rhythmic or withdrawn and reflective. The music unfolds in huge waves of sound making its way back to the opening chord. It ends in an appeased coda in which the solo violin plays “an unfolded version of the opening chord” which neatly rounds off this imposing work.
The much shorter Skriet is based on Munch's celebrated painting The Scream. The composer describes this piece as a straight line moving in one single direction and one single climax after which there is but silence.
Le visioni di paura, too, is based on a painting, Hieronymus Bosch's Inferno. The composer states that the music evokes hallucination. The music very often alternates calmer, more poetic fragments and more dynamic episodes, the whole displaying Henderickx's orchestral mastery.
The last work is also the earliest. Variations was composed when Henderickx was ending his time at the Antwerp Conservatoire studying with Willem Kersters. It actually is his first orchestral work, but it already displays a real understanding of both the variation form and the orchestra. The variations, though continuous, clearly fall into three main sections (fast-slow-fast). They unfold seamlessly, with apparent ease. By any count this is a brilliant and successful work from a young composer.
When reviewing the Megadisc release I mentioned that Henderickx has a real liking for and understanding of the orchestra. He handles large orchestral forces with assurance and flair. Tejas now amply proves that Henderickx also displays a remarkable ability at sustaining large-scale structure. The works recorded here also display a remarkable stylistic coherence. Variations and Tejas, for all their differences, are obviously from the same pen, which is ample proof of a really personal musical thinking and the mark of a master.
Martyn Brabbins is obviously in sympathy with Henderickx and conducts vital and strongly committed readings. The writing is often quite beautiful and this music clearly deserves more than the occasional hearing.
Hubert Culot
A most welcome and generously filled composer's portrait with often quite beautiful works splendid performed and recorded.