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Flemish Exploration

ROBERT ANDERSON listens to a little-known 'family'

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Romantic Orchestral Music by Flemish composers, volume 2. Copyright (c) 1999 HNH International Ltd.The two symphonies are something of a puzzle. Both date from the Second World War, which might as well be unfolding on another planet. This pair of grandson composers is old enough to have served in the earlier holocaust and may have decided they would follow nature's example in the second instalment to carry on as usual. In his Symphony no. 7 (1940), subtitled Swan Fen, Arthur Meulemans writes what he calls a Heathland Symphony. All the movements are concerned with such natural phenomena as horizons, heath, thickets, and the sun. The Dutch landscape is far from dramatic; so is the symphony. The finale stirs itself at the outset [listen]; the material of the work, though, is rarely arresting. Van Hoof's Second Symphony (1941) has a marginal note to the effect that the whole world has gone. Far from mourning the loss, the work accepts the consequent void with equanimity. The Grave slow movement is marked 'with bitterness' but cannot sustain such a mood for long. The final Allegretto 'proceeds happily' [listen].

If the first disc is superior to the second, this is no reflection on the playing of the VRT Philharmonic Orchestra under Van den Broeck, which is always pointed and expressive. Roel Dieltiens gives a fine account of the cello concerto, gritty and expansive where need be; and Joost Gils is the plangent soloist in the rustic Benoit song.

 Copyright © Robert Anderson, December 18th 1999


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