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Henk BADINGS (1907-1987)
Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra (1954) [25:52]
Symphony No. 3 (1934) [27:44]
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1956) [24:54]
Herman Krebbers, Theo Olof (violins), Henk van Oordt (flute)
Hague Philharmonic Orchestra/Willem van Otterloo (symphony, violin concerto)
Sempre Crescendo, Student Orchestra, Leiden/Jaap Stotijn (flute concerto)
rec. Concertebouw, Amsterdam, 1955-1956

Henk Badings was born in Java when it was still a Dutch colony. The influence of Indonesian music was reflected in the microtonal scales he employed in some of his music. Originally meant for a trade in geology and engineering, he soon changed direction when he discovered music was his calling. Largely self-taught, he studied composition with Willem Pijper. His career both as a teacher and composer was hampered to some extent by accusations that he had been a Nazi collaborator during the war; in 1942 he had accepted a post as head at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague from the Nazi-controlled Dutch government, replacing the sitting director who was Jewish. Badings’s compositions include 15 symphonies, concertos, string quartets, chamber and piano works.

The Concerto for Two Violins was actually dedicated to the two soloists who perform here. At the time this recording was made, Herman Krebbers and Theo Olof shared the concertmaster position of the Hague Philharmonic and later the Concertgebouw Orchestra. They also recorded Bach’s Double Concerto and Bartók’s 44 Duos together. What is striking in this performance is how the two violins blend. Their individual sounds are indistinguishable. They also both have matching vibratos, fast but flexible. The Concerto opens with four weighted chords ushering in a recitative-like passage from the soloists. Eventually the music becomes more involved. There is much passion and drama. Severity and brash stridency alternate with burning lyricism. The central Adagio opens out onto a lonely, isolated landscape. Everything is calm, reverential and restrained. The two violins’ ardent yearning feels almost like a cry of pain at one point. In contrast, the finale is spiky and energetic, and veers towards neoclassicism. Otterloo’s conducting is highly energized when called for, and he delivers an utterly convincing interpretation.

Composed in 1934, Bading’s Symphony No. 3 is one of his most popular. It was written for Willem Mengelberg, who premiered it, to celebrate his 40th jubilee. It is cast in four movements. The first is bold and assertive. With its martial theme, it seems to be almost on a war footing. Then the music becomes more elegiac; the composer incorporates some alluring woodwind lines. The second movement Scherzo evinces some very competent fugal writing. The Adagio is a dark and sombre affair. The mood becomes more animated in the finale, though there is a harshly depicted storm near the end, forcefully declaimed. I am familiar with this recording from a box set devoted to the conductor Willem van Otterloo (Challenge Classics CC 72142).

The Concerto for Flute was written in 1956, the year when this performance was recorded. It was composed especially for the Sempre Crescedo ensemble and dedicated to Jaap Stotijn, the conductor. It is structured in four movements, with the Scherzo placed second as in the Symphony. The third-movement Passacaglia, which seems like the emotional heart of the work, begins with pizzicato strings accompanying the flute's poetic narration. The variations are skillfully scored, each emitting its own unique colour. The flautist Henk van Oordt sensitively contours the ebb and flow of this richly tapestried score. The last movement is genial and lissome.

The recordings have been skilfully remastered from Philips LPs. I am amazed at how vital and vibrant they sound. This is an absorbing release of music that deserves to be better known and more frequently played.

Stephen Greenbank



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