Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Trio (1915) [27.19]
Alborada del gracioso (1905) (arr, van Beuren, 2008) [7.33]
Kees OLTHUIS (b. 1940)
Voyage à l’horizon … Seul … (2006) [22.50]
rec. Westvestkierk, Schiedam, 1-3 December 2010
COBRA 0034 [57.47]
Sanne Hunfeld, the violinist with Trio Suleika, states in her booklet note with regard to the piano trio Voyage à l’horizon … Seul … by Dutch composer Kees Olthuis that “Wherever we have performed it, it has always made a deep impression on the audience.” No wonder. It is a real pleasure to be able to report the discovery of a towering modern masterpiece. The work is effectively a long single-movement tone poem on the life of stage designer and painter Harry Wich (1927-2002). It moves from a contemplative opening through a long and dramatically turbulent middle section to a dying fall at the end. Olthuis was a bassoonist with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam for thirty-five years, and he obviously understands orchestral instruments to his fingertips. The music is beautifully written for all the players, and is beautifully played here. Even in its most turbulent passages there is a real sense of symphonic development in its most complete sense, and at no stage are any of the instruments asked to do anything which is against their natural tendencies. It could have been written fifty years ago, but in any age it would still stand out as a great work. Sanne Hanfield tells us that the trio have often performed the work, in venues from Sweden to Syria; but it should be taken up by other ensembles and introduced to audiences all over the world. They will enjoy hearing a piece that grips the attention from first to last. There is only one very minor quibble with this release; the composer tells us that he “derived inspiration from one of Wich’s paintings which was set into his gravestone.” The painting is described, but not reproduced in the booklet although we are given some very atmospheric photographs of Dutch landscapes by Pepijn Meeuws, the cellist with the Trio – an opportunity missed - an internet search fails to throw up any paintings by Wich which match the description in the booklet.
The works by Ravel are extremely well known by comparison, although the arrangement of the Alborada del gracioso by Lammerts van Beuren is of even more recent provenance than the Olthuis work. The arrangement, which derives not only from Ravel’s piano original but also from his later orchestral version, fits the instruments like a glove. The playing in the Ravel Piano Trio is excellent, and is enhanced by a nicely distanced and resonant recording which lends the Trio Suleika an impressionist halo which matches the music ideally.
The performances and recordings of the Ravel pieces are beautiful, but it is the work by Olthuis which makes this CD something very special. Nobody who cares about the future of classical music should overlook this piece. One longs to hear his 1984 symphonic poem Theseusfantasie as well as the other pieces he wrote for the Concertgebouw mentioned in the booklet – apparently the symphonic poem was recorded by Haitink on a CD collection of Dutch music, but this has now seemingly disappeared.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
Nobody who cares about the future of classical music should overlook the Olthuis.