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Henderickx: Tejas & Other Orchestral Works / Brabbins, Royal Flemish Philharmonic


Release Date: 04/10/2012 
Label:  Royal Flemish Philharmonic   Catalog #: 003  
Composer:  Wim Henderickx
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HENDRICKX Tejas. Skriet. Le visioni di paura. Variations Martyn Brabbins, cond; Royal Flemish P CUTTING EDGE RFP 003 (67: 32)


I wasted a Tom Stoppard line (“when Belgium produces a composer”) in a recent review; it really belongs here. Wim Hendrickx (b.1962) studied composition (with Willem Kersters) and percussion at the Antwerp Conservatory; he teaches there and in Amsterdam. His music is best described as abstract expressionist, and the link to the visual arts is Read more appropriate: Tejas , a 37-minute orchestral work written in 2009, is subtitled “What Does the Sound of the Universe Look Like?” This is hard-driving, powerful music, crammed with events and yet a most convincing whole. The music ranges from comfortable to wildly dissonant; there is no suggestion of atonality, nor are there easily identifiable key relationships. The composer’s study of percussion may be recognized by his employment of a large variety of drums, which become almost a concertante element. It opens with the Big Bang—one crashing fortissimo chord followed by strings and woodwinds skittering towards silence, a welcome change from Peter Ruzicka’s opening 30 seconds of super pianissimo , about which I complained in Fanfare 35:5. Hendrickx’s chord suggests the “Eroica,” and Tejas continues to make subtle connections to the past, especially to Le Sacre du printemps (which—on its 99th birthday—we must salute as the most influential single work ever created, possibly in all the arts). But at one point drums quietly tap out the da-da-da-dum of Beethoven’s Fifth. None of this is blatant, nor is a general orchestral feeling of Mahler: the giant climaxes, 99 players sitting mute as one or two noodle along, contrasts of darkness and blazing light. I have tried to describe what I hear; after reading the composer’s notes, I learn that Tejas is a Sanskrit word and that the music has connections to Tantric philosophy. I have often found composers’ notes to be at odds with my own perceptions (and preferred to go my own way), but they should mean more to you than my ravings, so you deserve to be told. Tejas is presented on a single track with 11 index numbers; no doubt they indicate sections of the work, but as yet I have not been able to parse them; to me, this is one vast, unbroken stretch of music.


The three other Hendrickx works on this disc are short pieces, from five to 13 minutes long, composed between 1988 and 2003 (the cover says “ Tejas and other orchestral works”). Heard following Tejas , they strike one as preparatory work for the pièce de resistance , but of course they weren’t written as such. They are all recognizable as the same composer (a point he makes in his notes, too); after one thoroughly digests Tejas , they may reveal their individual characters. The performances and the recorded sound (in Queen Elisabeth Hall, Antwerp, on June 23–25, 2010) do justice to the local composer; the booklet is mum on whether or not he attended or supervised.


What matters is that I find Tejas exciting and absorbing, ever more so over multiple hearings. I can’t remember being so taken by a new piece since Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (which I continue to regard as the awakening of a new century of music). Don’t miss this one!


FANFARE: James H. North

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Some may remember that I reviewed a disc of Henderickx's music devoted to his Raga cycle. Now comes another one of orchestral music spanning his present composing career. The earliest work was composed in 1988 and the most recent in 2009. This allows a fair appraisal of Henderickx's progress over the years.

Tejas ( What does the sound of the universe look like? ) , to give the work its full title, is by far the longest and most substantial work here. It is also the most complex in terms of structure. The booklet, actually an interview with the composer, gives a fairly detailed overview of the structural lay-out. This falls into several, highly contrasted sections playing continuously for over half an hour. The work opens with a massive chord (“a kind of primordial big bang”) that contains the seeds of much of the ensuing music. A close scrutiny of this imposing score - something definitely beyond my own skills - would surely confirm the tight working-out of the basic material as contained in that opening chord. The music possesses a formidable energy that is maintained throughout this fairly long piece with remarkable imagination and inventiveness. One is never really aware of the size of the piece because the composer succeeds in creating endlessly changing musical landscapes. These are by turns powerfully rhythmic or withdrawn and reflective. The music unfolds in huge waves of sound making its way back to the opening chord. It ends in an appeased coda in which the solo violin plays “an unfolded version of the opening chord” which neatly rounds off this imposing work.

The much shorter Skriet is based on Munch's celebrated painting The Scream. The composer describes this piece as a straight line moving in one single direction and one single climax after which there is but silence.

Le visioni di paura, too, is based on a painting, Hieronymus Bosch's Inferno. The composer states that the music evokes hallucination. The music very often alternates calmer, more poetic fragments and more dynamic episodes, the whole displaying Henderickx's orchestral mastery.

The last work is also the earliest. Variations was composed when Henderickx was ending his time at the Antwerp Conservatoire studying with Willem Kersters. It actually is his first orchestral work, but it already displays a real understanding of both the variation form and the orchestra. The variations, though continuous, clearly fall into three main sections (fast-slow-fast). They unfold seamlessly, with apparent ease. By any count this is a brilliant and successful work from a young composer.

When reviewing the Megadisc release I mentioned that Henderickx has a real liking for and understanding of the orchestra. He handles large orchestral forces with assurance and flair. Tejas now amply proves that Henderickx also displays a remarkable ability at sustaining large-scale structure. The works recorded here also display a remarkable stylistic coherence. Variations and Tejas, for all their differences, are obviously from the same pen, which is ample proof of a really personal musical thinking and the mark of a master.

Martyn Brabbins is obviously in sympathy with Henderickx and conducts vital and strongly committed readings. The writing is often quite beautiful and this music clearly deserves more than the occasional hearing.

-- Hubert Culot, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Tejas by Wim Henderickx
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Written: 2009 
2.
Skriet by Wim Henderickx
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993 
3.
Le visioni di paura by Wim Henderickx
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990 
4.
Variations by Wim Henderickx
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 1988 

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