Notes and Editorial Reviews
DUTCH MASTERS AND THEIR INSPIRATION
CHALLENGE 72633 (54:08)
Le tombeau de Couperin
A Love Unsung
EINAR TORFI EINARSSON
Desiring-Machines: Partial Object 0.1667.
4 Preludes to Infinity.
(arr. de Leeuw)
The Stoltz Quartet consists of Marieke Schut, oboe; Jellantsje de Vries, violin; Liesbeth Steffens, viola; and Doris Hochscheid, cello—the latter known to
for a series of magnificent performances of Dutch cello sonatas with pianist Frans van Ruth. This Dutch ensemble’s mission is the commissioning and performance of new works: “It is our passionate conviction that we can clearly demonstrate that contemporary music is able to touch many more people than was thought.” A noble sentiment! This CD, “the first result of this mission,” combines new compositions by Dutch composers with arrangements of works that have inspired them.
Robert Zuidam transcribed Ravel’s
Le tombeau de Couperin
from its six-movement piano original but found that the final Toccata was “written too specifically for the keyboard to result in a fruitful version for oboe quartet.” Zuidam did include the Fugue (missing from Ravel’s orchestration), arranged for three strings “to give the hobo a rest.” Ravel’s delightful suite would be totally winning on a harmonica or perhaps even a solo tuba; it works beautifully here, as Stoltz tosses it off like a breeze. There are moments when an enthusiastic oboe covers the strings, but one must expect that with an oboe quartet. Zuidam’s own work is an excerpt from a forthcoming opera with no singing—let’s hope that’s not the wave of the future. The six minutes are practically a duet for two lovers, oboe and cello, richly played by Hochscheid.
Klaas de Vries’s
(the punctuation is Dutch) were chosen by their speaker, Gerrie de Vries. There are seven of them, centering on the moon. They are spoken in Dutch, with English and German translations in the booklet, The music is minimal, barely supporting the words. These, too, are “fragments of a work in progress.”
Fifty years ago, avant-garde often meant having machines imitate instruments; Einar Torfi Einarsson’s
Desiring-Machines: partial object 0.1667
does just the opposite: It takes a minute before one recognizes that this music is performed on instruments (with some vocal interjections) rather than by machines. We may be thankful that we are given only four minutes of “a large piece for 24 soloists.” A lengthy description in the notes says in essence that it can be performed by any forces, playing whatever notes they choose, in whatever order. “It has to do with the concept of fixity which underscores the conventional music score, and which
(and its partial objects) strive to eliminate or at least leave behind by exploring non-fixity.” And I’m the Queen of Sheba.
Theo Verbey’s arrangement of four brief Scriabin preludes returns us to probity and to lovely music. One can’t imagine them being written for any instruments other than oboe quartet. His own
Four Preludes to Infinity
(“Mysterious,” “Restless,” “Religious,” “Luminous”) stretch the timings; the wide range of their character makes for a marvelous oboe quartet, as the music convincingly realizes each movement title. Move over, Mozart!
Reinbert de Leeuw writes of the “Jesu begegnet seiner heiligen Mutter” section of Liszt’s oratorio that “This piece captured my imagination during my time at the conservatory, and since then has never let me go.” His arrangement is as beautiful in its simplicity as the original.
Marieke Schut is another in the seemingly endless procession of magnificent Dutch oboists, extending back at least to Jaap Stotijn and his son Haakon Stotijn in Mengelberg’s Concertgebouworkest and on through their pupil Han de Vries, my personal favorite. She and her colleagues have given us a fascinating tour of new Dutch chamber music, cleverly ordered: The Einarsson piece shocks us out of complacency and also sets us up for the beauties to follow. Enthusiastically recommended, especially for the gorgeous Verbey work.
FANFARE: James H. North
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