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Maldere: Sinfonies / Bral, Academy Of Ancient Music

Maldere / Academy Of Ancient Music / Bral
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Etcetera Records   Catalog #: 4036   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Pierre Van Maldere
Conductor:  Filip Bral
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Fine performances of early classical symphonies by an unjustly forgotten master.


MALDERE Symphonies: in g, op. 4/1; in D, op. 5/1; in A; in F Filip Bral, cond; Academy of Ancient Music ET’CETERA 4036 (58:30)

Every time I think I’m Read more about to discover a composer new to these pages, I find a colleague who has beat me to the punch. Well, not this time, for a search of the Fanfare Archive turned up no entries for Maldere. Not only that, but there’s not a single entry for him at ArkivMusic. Amazon, however, lists four CDs, two of which are flagged as “currently unavailable,” one of them being the only disc devoted entirely to the composer. On one of the remaining two entries, a 1996 Hyperion release with Jorg Faerber and the European Community Chamber Orchestra, available only as an expensive import, Maldere shares the disc with three other composers, having only the same G-Minor Symphony as on the current CD to himself. And on the other remaining disc, titled Music and Chants for Marriages , Maldere is represented by a single track, the Largo movement from a Symphony in A Major.

So who was Pieter (Pierre) van Maldere (1729–68) and why is he so obscure? One could speculate that living to be only 39 he didn’t have time to compose a whole lot. But then one would have to explain Mozart and Schubert, both of whom died even younger. Besides, as it happens, Maldere’s output is not that meager. It includes at least five documented operas, 45 known symphonies, 25 trio sonatas, and half a dozen violin sonatas.

Abandoning that theory, then, one might next venture a guess that as a Belgian Maldere was a bit distanced from the major music capitals of the time. But that idea proves flawed, too, when we read that Maldere trained as a violinist, probably under Jean-Joseph Fiocco; that from 1751 to 1753 he was director of the Philarmonick Concerts in Dublin; and that he traveled to Paris in 1754 to play in the Concerts Spirituels, and then went on to Vienna where two of his comic operas, Le Déguisement pastoral (1756) and Les Amours champêtres (1758), were staged. While there, he played for the Empress Maria Theresa and his works were known to both Haydn and Mozart. Maldere’s compositions circulated widely throughout Europe and manuscripts have been found in 21 libraries all across Europe and even in the U.S.

I was beginning to clutch at straws trying to understand why a violinist and composer so widely known and highly regarded in his own day should have virtually vanished from our collective consciousness. There was only one explanation left. It had to be that the music was not all that special and/or that for its time it was a throwback to an earlier era. I put the disc on, perversely hoping that what I was about to hear would confirm this last theory. It didn’t.

True, Maldere was only three years Haydn’s senior, but Haydn was still a young man of 36 and just entering his mature stage of symphony production when Maldere died in 1768. Then too, Haydn’s innovative string quartet writing phase did not begin until 1772 with the op. 20 set of “Sun” Quartets, four years after Maldere’s death. So, we can’t expect Maldere to have written Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies. But what one hears right off the bat in the G-Minor Symphony that leads off the program tells us that Maldere was not a composer who was behind the times. This is music that a young Haydn or baby Mozart would have been proud to put his name to.

As Maldere’s Wikipedia entry tells us, his chamber music may show late Baroque tendencies and Corelli’s influence (hardly surprising, given his background and training as a violinist—my comment), but his symphonies testify to the formation of the early Classical Viennese symphony. To that I would add that Maldere’s symphonies, with one notable exception, leave behind most traces of the sinfonia type of pre -Classical symphony practiced by G. B. Sammartini, J. C. Bach, and representatives of the Mannheim school. Instead, Maldere adopts many of the more progressive developments in style and technique being advanced at the time, particularly in Vienna.

The one area in which Maldere doesn’t quite make the leap is in the element of formal design on the macro level. His symphonies—at least those on the present disc—still cling to a three-movement, fast-slow-fast configuration that has its roots in the Italian opera overture, solo concerto, and sinfonia. Internally, however, within first and last movements, as Marc Vanscheeuwijck points out in his program notes, Maldere gives clear evidence of embracing the new sonata-allegro form, presenting the classical harmonic juxtaposition of themes that modulate from tonic to dominant (in major keys) or from tonic to relative major (in minor keys), followed by a short but harmonically active development section, and then a recapitulation in which the harmonic conflict is resolved.

Interesting as this may be, in my experience, music’s formal elements are not the first things to grab a listener’s attention. Appreciation of form comes only with repeated hearings, which are not likely to happen if the listener doesn’t connect in some more immediate way with a piece on a first encounter. On that score, I can tell you that Maldere’s symphonies are remarkable for their melodic invention, strong rhythmic profile, elegance, and élan. This is music that will leave a deep imprint on your brain and have you humming its tunes long after the disc has stopped playing. In my opinion, it’s not just disgraceful but criminal that Maldere has been so shamefully neglected, a situation it’s hoped this Et’Cetera release will begin to remedy. As Vanscheeuwijck concludes, Maldere’s music is a synthesis of French, German, and Viennese (and I would add Italian) elements, “a synthesis that only Haydn and Mozart would become interested in developing.”

What can I say about these performances? We’re blessed to have an ensemble as poised, polished, and perfect as the Academy of Ancient Music to take up Maldere’s cause. It’s augmented by players I don’t see listed on the ensemble’s official website. Strings are 6:5:3:2, supplemented by double bass. Two oboes, two horns, and theorbo complete the complement for a total of 22 players.

How wonderful is this release? Just wonderful enough that there’s a good chance it will end up on my 2011 Want List. But even if doesn’t make the final cut, you’re not limited to five selections as we are, so you can have as many items on your personal Want List as you like, and I’d strongly urge you to make this one of them.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins


When music historians describe how the music aesthetic of the baroque era gradually made way for that of classicism the name of Pieter Van Maldere is seldom mentioned. In his own time he was considered a pioneer of the newest trends in music, in particular in the development of the symphony. Marc Vanscheeuwijck begins his programme notes with a quotation from the Swiss lexicographer Johann Georg Sulzer: "The symphonic allegros of the Netherlander van Maldere can be considered to be models of this genre of instrumental music; they possess all the afore-mentioned characteristics, and testify to the greatness of this composer, whose untimely death has robbed art of many more masterpieces of this kind".

Pieter Van Maldere was the third of ten children of a schoolmaster in Brussels. Little is known about his musical education, but it is likely he started as a boy singer in the chapel of Charles of Lorraine, prince and governor of the Austrian Netherlands. It is possible that Henri-Jacques De Croes, who became first violinist of the chapel in 1744, was his teacher at the violin. A document of 1746 mentions Van Maldere among the second violinists of the chapel. In 1749 he became the leader of the orchestra. Charles of Lorraine was clearly impressed with Van Maldere's capabilities as he promoted him as much as possible. The good personal relationship allowed him to make concert tours, for instance to Dublin. Here he directed the Philharmonick Concerts. He also appeared at the Concert Spirituel in Paris where his performances met praise in the Mercure de France: "This virtuoso has a beautiful bowstroke, much precision, and ways all his own. His is a great talent". Later in his career he developed into a kind of private musician to the prince. He was able to compose and publish his music, and also became involved in theatre productions, to which he contributed compositions of his own.

But it was first and foremost his contribution to the genre of the symphony which constitutes his historical importance. Marc Vanscheeuwijk mentions several of the formal aspects of his symphonies. For instance, the first and last movements of his mostly three-movement symphonies show an early sonata-form. Contemporaries noted especially the liveliness of the bass part. Johann Adam Hiller wrote about the symphonies op. 4: "What specifically distinguishes them from other symphonies, and makes them uncommonly brilliant, is the hardworking bass, which is always in motion, whether producing excellent imitation or strongly supporting and animating the most artistic unity". The symphonies are also notable for their melodious character, often suggesting the influence of folk music. The fast movements have infectious rhythms and there is an unmistakable connection to the diverting music of the time. The two last symphonies on this disc are especially noteworthy in this respect. They are played here with single strings: two violins, viola, cello and theorbo. I don't know - and the liner-notes don't tell - whether the composer himself required this scoring. It would be interesting to hear them with a larger ensemble, but the performances with one instrument per part work quite well.

This is not the first disc to have been devoted to music by Van Maldere. I know of at least one recording of four symphonies by the Collegium Instrumentale Brugensis, on modern instruments, probably dating from the 1980s; the disc, which appeared on the small label Eufodia, fails to mention the recording date. The present recording was originally released in 2001 by the classical channel of Belgian public radio, and hasn't received that much attention, as far as I know. Although the previous recording is quite good and gives a good impression of Van Maldere's qualities, these performances by The Academy of Ancient Music, playing on period instruments, is definitely superior. They strike the right chord as far as the character of the music is concerned. The melodies are beautifully played, the slow movements have a maximum of expression, and the fast movements are sparkling and full of life. This disc is a splendid effort by all participants. I would like to hear more of Van Maldere's symphonies.

-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony in G minor, Op 4/1 by Pierre Van Maldere
Conductor:  Filip Bral
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music
Period: Classical 
Venue:  Academiezaal, St.-Truiden, Belgium 
Length: 16 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Symphony in D major, Op. 5/1 by Pierre Van Maldere
Conductor:  Filip Bral
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music
Venue:  Academiezaal, St.-Truiden, Belgium 
Length: 16 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Symphony in A (Viola Obligata) by Pierre Van Maldere
Conductor:  Filip Bral
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music
Venue:  Academiezaal, St.-Truiden, Belgium 
Length: 12 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Symphony in F major by Pierre Van Maldere
Conductor:  Filip Bral
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music
Venue:  Academiezaal, St.-Truiden, Belgium 
Length: 12 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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