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August De Boeck: Selected Piano Works

De Boeck
Release Date: 01/11/2011 
Label:  Phaedra   Catalog #: 92064   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



DE BOECK Piano Music Jozef de Beenhouwer (pn) PHAEDRA 64 (73:48)


The best-known work by August de Boeck (1865–1937) is his Symphony in G Major, written very much in the style of the Russian nationalists, whom he greatly admired. Ian Lace agreed with this assessment in his review of its only currently available recording ( Fanfare 23:4), and it’s definitely worth hearing. De Boeck revealed himself in that piece (and in his Read more style="font-style:italic">Dahomey Rhapsody , its companion on two other recordings, both deleted—my favorite featuring Irwin Hoffmann and the Belgian Radio-TV Symphony Orchestra) as an accomplished, imaginative musician, with an ear for orchestral color. It did not demonstrate any particular sense of humor, yet that comes across as perhaps the strongest individual quality in this selection of the composer’s piano works.


De Boeck’s wit is at its most apparent in the Toccata in F Major, written before 1907. According to the liner notes, the piece is based on a children’s song; I can find no other information about that. But its outline is clearly audible at the start of the Toccata, which is otherwise a kaleidoscopic affair of shifting meters, rhythms, textures, competing keys, and character—rather like Dvo?ák’s Scherzo Capriccioso in its treatment, with a more advanced compositional palette. Much the same holds true in the Scherzo No. 1, though its pentatonic, hazily quiet central section could have been written by Koechlin; and the Toccata No. 2 in B?-Minor, composed more than 20 years after the earlier work in the same genre, though de Boeck’s technique is considerably more subtle. There are reminiscences of Chopin’s scherzi in its contrasting pair of themes, the second lyrical and memorable, with both losing harmonic traction to a bass line inclined to go its own enharmonic way.


The Russian influence is more muted in these works, though Borodin appears at his most delicate in the central section of the Minuet No. 1 in G Minor. Debussy is more prevalent elsewhere, with whole-tone scales, parallel chords, and bitonality heard throughout the program, though more for coloring than as structural devices.


Roughly 21 minutes of the album are devoted to Voor Kinderen , a catchall title describing 12 out of roughly 70 such pieces de Boeck wrote. These are about children’s activities and emotions, rather than for them to play, and as such, feature complexities in performance that would send an average amateur pianist’s fingers flying about the room in desperation. The mix of direct melodic appeal, gentle satire (a Gavotte; a “Dream” that could have come from the pen of Schumann; a waltz titled Bijna een Etude! or Almost an Etude!), and sophisticated treatment proves an irresistible combination.


Jozef de Beenhouwer is a new name to me. He graduated in Belgium with a pharmacy degree, but then studied music at the Antwerp Royal Flemish Academy, and continued privately with David Kimball. He has completed and performed previously unfinished works for piano and orchestra by Clara and Robert Schumann, and recorded numerous albums for Phaedra, mostly of chamber music by such estimable Flemish composers as Ryelandt, Benoit, de Jong, and Blockx. Technically, he’s certainly equal to the demands placed upon the performer by de Boeck, and they’re not minor, for if the composer doesn’t usually engage in arpeggiated runs and blocks of swiftly moving octaves, he does require a great deal of finesse, dynamic control, and color in careful balance between the hands. These, the pianist supplies—though there are a few times, as in the Toccata No. 2, when exaggerated Luftpausen break the forward pulse of the music. Despite flexibility never being an issue, I would also prefer a more precipitate pace in a few instances, in those fleeter selections that depend upon passing harmonies and unexpected turns of phrase for their effect. That said, there’s no questioning de Beenhouwer’s sympathetic understanding of this music, or the clarity with which he illuminates its inner parts.


In short, a distinguished release, and hopefully not the only one we’ll have of de Boeck’s piano music.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Prélude in D flat major, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1090 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 3 Minutes 56 Secs. 
2.
Capriccio in G major, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1910 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
3.
Scherzo No. 1 in A minor, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 5 Minutes 36 Secs. 
4.
Soir sur l'eau (An Evening on the Water) in E flat major, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1908 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 15 Secs. 
5.
Scherzo No. 2 in E flat major, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1916 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 8 Minutes 34 Secs. 
6.
Valse Arabesque in F minor, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1923 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
7.
Valse dolente in A minor, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 48 Secs. 
8.
Toccata No. 1 in F major, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 2 Minutes 12 Secs. 
9.
Toccata No. 2 in B flat minor, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1927 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 32 Secs. 
10.
Menuet No. 1 in G minor, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 
11.
Impromptu in A minor, for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 5 Minutes 47 Secs. 
12.
Eekhoorndans (Dance of the Squirrels), for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Written: 1932 
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 3 Minutes 39 Secs. 
13.
Voor Kindern (For Children), for piano by August De Boeck
Performer:  Jozef de Beenhouwer (Piano)
Venue:  Sint-Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium 
Length: 18 Minutes 59 Secs. 

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