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Albert HUYBRECHTS (1899-1938)
Chamber Music - Volume 3
Suite for wind instruments and piano (1929) [20:07] ¹
Pastorale for six wind instruments (1927) [9:04] ²
Wind Quintet (1936) [12:33] ¹
Concertino for cello and piano (1932) [14:01]
Sonatine for flute and viola (1934) [18:40]
Pastourelle for viola da gamba and piano (1934) [8:45]
Soloists of the Symphony Orchestra of La Monnaie/De Munt; Lucas Blondeel (piano) ¹; Monnaie Wind Quintet ¹² Tille Van Gastel (flute) ²
Lionel Bams (piano); Carlos Bruneel (flute); Yves Cortvrint (viola); Philippe Pierlot (viola da gamba); Sébastian Walnier (cello)
rec. April 2011 Salle Fiocco de La Monnaie and June 2012, ‘The Right Place’ (Concertino and Pastourelle)
CYPRÈS CYP4639 [42:41 + 41:21]

A veil seems to have been drawn over much of Albert Huybrechts’ complex emotional life. A thwarted love affair in the early 1930s was the catalyst for a number of works. Undiagnosed symptoms - a mélange of the physical and the psychological - were the cause of his early death in 1938. What he left behind needs careful sifting because not every work matches the stature of his Violin Sonata, which is one of the surviving works to have been promoted.
 
This third volume of the chamber music series lasts just too long for a single CD so Cyprès have decided to split the child in two and serve two 42 minute discs, which is reflected in an appropriate price bracket - the composer is obscure enough without putting up price barriers.  

Huybrechts inherited the august Franco-Belgian taste for wind writing. The Suite for winds and piano dates from 1929 and shows decided leanings towards Stravinsky and Neo-Classicism. Some of the piano writing is reminiscent of the kind of thing Martinů was doing in Paris at around the same time, and the limpidity of the writing always reveals the geographical origin of the composer. Harmonically, too, there are decided nods to Debussy. Written two years earlier, the Pastorale is a single-movement piece for piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon that goes through a succession of moods and textures. Some, indeed the central faster section with its felicitous voicings and sense of sheer fun, are unusually exuberant and unbuttoned for Huybrechts. The first CD ends with his musical Will and Testament, the 1936 Quintet, his last completed work; his idea for a Poe opera never came to anything. Again in three clear movements but playing without a break, it’s appropriately unsettled and in places quite austere, though the final section is certainly not dour and has one of the composer’s hallmarks: precise vitality allied to strongly rhythmic writing.
 
CD2 presents the more concertante or sonata-like side of Huybrechts. The Concertino for cello and piano (1932) also exists in an orchestral version. Again this is a compressed three-movement-in-one form with some strenuous writing for cello, including an intense cadenza, rather nasally dispatched here. The Sonatine for flute and viola is a classic French/Belgian combination - refined, reserved, and reflective with the viola rather subordinate. The harmonic anxiety in the central slow movement is distinguished. Then, finally, there is the 1934 Pastourelle for cello or - as played here - viola da gamba, and piano. The unusual sound of the stringed instrument adds a piquancy to the music’s dreamy charm - indeed it’s almost an eclogue.
 
Admirers of the composer who have already invested in the first two volumes should certainly carry on and acquire this one. Those new to him should seek out the Violin Sonata first, and seeing whether it appeals, before moving further afield to this twofer.
 
Jonathan Woolf