Flemish Concertos for orchestra
Jef MAES (1905-1996) Overture Concertante (1961) [6:50]
Arthur MEULEMANS (1884-1966) Concerto for orchestra No. 1 (1953) [18:21]
Norbert ROSSEAU (1907-1975) Concerto for orchestra No. 1, Op. 37 (1947) - III. Scherzo – only [3:58]
Arthur MEULEMANS Concerto for orchestra No. 2 (1956-7) [19:39]
Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
rec. 10-12 February 2011, deSingel, Antwerp. DDD
Three Flemish concertos for orchestra present their calling card, even if one of them is represented by a parsimonious fragment comprising just one movement. There’s also Jeff Maes’ rather catchy and imaginative Overture Concertante to usher the listener in.
The Royal Flemish Philharmonic is already known to collectors from their Marco Polo and Naxos discs. In addition they have appeared with Martyn Brabbins on Hyperion in two CDs of the Vieuxtemps violin concertos (1 and 2: CDA67878 and 4 and 5: CDA67798) and Mortelmanns’ Homerische Symfonie (CDA67766). They have now launched their own label with three series of which this CD forms part of the Belgian Boutique line.
Maes was a self-taught composer whose orchestral inheritance only announced itself after World War II. His 1961 Ouverture Concertante is a zesty and effervescent piece with a darker middle section. Certainly the music is melodious – a little like Kabalevsky - and has little truck with modernist trends, dissonance or ‘-isms’. This flamboyant overture was often used by the RFP as an opener for concerts conducted by Eduard Flipse; no wonder.
The core of the ‘offer’ lies in Meulemans’ two numbered Concertos for Orchestra – 1950s vintage. The First is modelled on Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. You can hear this in the bubbling flow of woodwind in the second movement. The third movement is colder - not exactly gaunt – but mercurially discursive. The harp’s arpeggiation makes play with the woodwind as zephyrs stir and weave. The finale is more sanguine, bubbling and jolly. We are in the same region as the Ibert Bacchanale, the Maes Ouverture and the Moeran Overture for a Masque. It ends in an extravagant wave of euphoria.
The Second Concerto is replete with ideas in collision or indifferent to each other. Everything is melodic but the density of the weave produces a pleasant jibber-jabber. The second movement’s flighty sighing and wisps precede the third’s musing woodwind choir and a mournful, romantic and restless obsession with change. The final section’s metallic crashing and arrogant brass fanfares mingle, surge, wax and wane. Meulemans turns to fugal writing then presses forward into chattering exultation and a blazingly positive climactic sunrise. Very attractive material.
How sad that in a disc that runs to such a short playing time we get only the third movement of Rosseau’s First Concerto for Orchestra. Its chattering woodwind might remind some British listeners of Ronald Binge. It’s blithe of countenance and then adopts a Pulcinella manner. Once again this is very attractive so let's have the whole thing next time and at least one complete Rosseau CD.
Brabbins has already added magnificently to the store of recorded music with many discs for Hyperion including the recent Gothic BBC co-production.
The essential notes are by Tom Janssens.
There you have it: three engaging Flemish concertos for orchestra and an effervescent overture. Pity about short playing time and the fragmentary Rosseau.
Rob Barnett
Three engaging Belgian concertos for orchestra and an effervescent overture. Pity about short playing time and the fragmentary Rosseau.

see also review by Hubert Culot