Jef van HOOF (1886 – 1959)
Herinneringsouverture (Remembrance Overture) (1917) [12:57]
Perzeus (Overture) (1908) [11:12]
Symphony No. 2 in A flat Major (1941) [28:42]
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava/Ivo Venkov
rec. The Concert Hall of the Janacek Philharmonic, 24-27 August 2010.
PHAEDRA 92067 [53:21]

The Flemish composer Jef Van Hoof has, as with so many of his composer countrymen, had a low to nil profile beyond his homeland. Phaedra and other companies have tried to put paid to this with the following CDs of his symphonies:-

Phaedra's loveable and munificent In Flanders Fields series of which this is volume 67 have also furnished us with van Hoof’s String Quartet No. 1 and Trifles (vol. 1).

MWI’s own Hubert Culot has been one of Van Hoof’s most eloquent advocates as the above link testifies. You'll probably want to explore those other discs after hearing this one. The 1917 Remembrance Overture not quite seamlessly incorporates fragments of the national anthems of Russia and England and France. There are times when it lurches towards 1812 territory just without the field guns. The Perseus Overture is rather affable and even excitable. It has a few moments echoing Berlioz’s Carnaval Romain and Le Corsair as well as Smetana's Bartered Bride. The six van Hoof symphonies came late in life with the first dating from 1938 and this Second from the Nazi occupation years in 1941. It’s resolutely rooted in nineteenth century models and modes. The mood is pretty relaxed and despite the liner-note one finds little in the way of the sort of tortured passions associated with a war symphony. This is not another Arthur Benjamin Symphony - more like Mendelssohn's Scotch or Italian or the Bizet or Saint-Säens’ first two numbered symphonies. The Sixth is unfinished.

The Janáček Phil, Ostrava acquit themselves with evident commitment for Ivo Venkov. The two overtures show not just extensive preparation but also that the playing has 'caught fire'.

Perhaps I could also put in a word for Meulemans, a most prolific and fascinating Flemish symphonist. Only a handful of his symphonies have been recorded. They merit better. Will someone step forward please?

Rob Barnett

Affable and excitable music performed with evident commitment.