Bernard ZWEERS (1854-1924)
Symphony No. 1 in D major (1881) [26:18]
DaniŽl de LANGE (1841-1918)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor (1868) [30:45]
Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra/Ed Spanjaard (Zweers); Anthony Halstead (de Lange)
rec. 4 December 1994, Vredenburg, Utrecht (Zweers); 2 August 2001, Studio MCO, Hilversum (de Lange). DDD
Dutch Romantics series
World premiere recordings
STERLING CDS1068-2 [57:11]

The further one goes back in Bernard Zweers’s oeuvre – back from the pastoral Dutch elements of his large-scale and most famous symphony, the Third, back from the Wagnerianism of the Second – the further one journeys to his Classical beginnings. Predicated therefore on strictly Classical and not Romantic lines, his 1881 First Symphony is a four-movement work of sturdy confidence showing not the slightest influence from Brahms or Bruckner or even Franck. Instead there’s a lightly pervasive Beethovenian element at work, with some textbook wind writing to be heard too and, in the slow movement something that sounds like a cross between Mozart and Mendelssohn. The heavy-booted Scherzo – a real clog dance, this – possibly encodes dry Dutch humour, before Zweers unleashes a confidently handled finale that features chugging rhythms and taut brass writing to generate a stirring end.

DaniŽl de Lange studied cello but soon discovered an enthusiasm for choral music. He later became a music critic and a distinguished teacher, becoming director of the Amsterdam conservatory in 1895 – in which capacity he employed Zweers as composition teacher. His 1868 Symphony was written whilst he was living in Paris and is dedicated to Massenet. It’s a strongly argued work with a fine narrative core to it – nobly but also a little Mendelssohnianly-coloured. He too can construct a warm slow movement, graced by fine winds, and (maybe due to his French sojourn) the Scherzo definitely has something Gallic about it – hints of Saint-SaŽns abound here and there. For the finale one detects a strong folkloric element on the brass though couched, in effect, in the form of a rousing chorale. Like Zweers, he knows how to deliver a powerful conclusion but, rather better than his compatriot, he knows how to marshal stronger material to do so.

As ever Sterling goes the extra mile to construct helpful booklet notes. Recorded years apart in different locations and under different conductors the performances serve both composers very well.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett

To gain a 10% discount, use the link below & the code MusicWeb10