Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 3; No. 10; No. 14,
David Porcelijn, cond.; Janá?ek PO
CPO 777 522 (68:01)
CPO’s investigation of the 15-work cycle of Holland’s major 20th-century symphonist Henk Badings (1907–87) continues apace with this collection of three pieces covering a 34-year span of his long and prolific career.
A mostly self-taught protégé of the seminal Dutch modernist Willem Pijper, Badings
started out right away and made his mark still in his 20s as a symphonist. The Third Symphony of 1934 is probably his most frequently performed and was the culmination of three such powerful works produced in quick succession, which established him immediately as a dominating figure even before he had reached his 30th year. Premiered by the great Mengelberg, the Third follows the pattern, both formally and stylistically, Badings was to adhere to for at least the next two decades. In four classically oriented movements, with the scherzo usually in second place, the music opens very emphatically with a bold and martial idea, followed soon by a contrasting elegiac theme, with subterranean suggestions of turmoil and tragedy throughout the elaborate development. Although essentially tonal, the idiom often uses bitonal combinations, displaying Badings’s mastery of fugal counterpoint and a broad range of dynamics. There is never any doubt that this is deeply serious, forthright, and eloquent music of universal import. Badings’s rather harsh and aggressively articulated though never expressionistic language, derived in part from Pijper’s own more subtle and affable polytonality, was to characterize much of Holland’s cool but never dry music during years surrounding World War II.
Nearly two decades later, in 1961, with this 10th Symphony Badings is following the same basic format, though now the movements are shorter and more tightly organized with an overall duration at least a third less, with the treatment perhaps a bit more formulaic. The 10th is similar in scope and manner to its immediate predecessors: the Seventh Symphony commissioned and recorded in 1954 by the Louisville Orchestra, the Eighth of 1956, and the fleet Symphony for Strings (No. 9). These works are all smooth and self-assured arguments of a born symphonist who obviously wants to engage the individual listener on a direct one-to-one level while at the same time making a statement of general public consequence.
In the 14th Symphony of 1968 (subtitled “Symphonic Triptychon”), we encounter a very different Badings, where his increasing interest in sonority as an end in itself (since the 50s he had dabbled in electronic music) has overwhelmed his previously innate and unerring sense of formal and dramatic inevitability. There had always been a streak of scientific and technological curiosity in his temperament (before studying music, he had acquired advanced degrees in geology and paleontology), so that in these later symphonies Badings is seemingly content to create static layers of instrumental textures with little sense of contrast or forward motion. Winds and percussion predominate, probably because in these later years Badings had developed a keen interest in the wind ensemble medium, having written numerous scores—including the 13th and 14th symphonies—without any strings. This listener never expected to be experiencing any music by Badings as rather dull and uneventful, but this 23-minute “triptych” comes close.
The distinguished Dutch conductor David Porcelijn has spent many years interpreting this kind of repertoire in his native country, and it would seem he has effectively conveyed his expertise and enthusiasm to these Czech musicians. A much earlier classic vinyl recording of the Third Symphony—together with the thrilling First Two-Violin Concerto—conducted by the great Willem Van Otterloo has just been reissued on Pristine Audio PASC 230, and Porcelijn’s reading—as well as his first recordings of the other two symphonies—measures up to that of his illustrious predecessor. CPO’s acoustic ambience is fittingly bright and three-dimensional with much more intelligible annotation than one usually encounters from this source. No one interested in the 20th-century symphony can go without this disc.
FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
Works on This Recording
Symphony No. 3 by Henk Badings
Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra
Venue: Concert Hall of the Janacek Philharmonic
Length: 26 Minutes 9 Secs.
Symphony No. 10 by Henk Badings
Venue: Concert Hall of the Janacek Philharmonic
Length: 17 Minutes 5 Secs.
Symphony No. 3: I. Allegro
Symphony No. 3: II. Scherzo
Symphony No. 3: III. Adagio
Symphony No. 3: IV. Allegro assai
Symphony No. 10: I. Allegro
Symphony No. 10: II. Presto
Symphony No. 10: III. Adagio
Symphony No. 10: IV. Allegro molto
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