Overture in B minor, Op.2
Overture in C minor, Op.3 (Gijsbrecht van Aemstel)
Overture in D minor, Op 8
Symphony in E minor, Op.46
Residentie Orchestra The Hague
Recorded in Dr Anton Philipszaal, The Hague, The Netherlands in December 2001 and February-March 2002
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: August 2004
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10179
Duration: 59 minutes
Johannes Verhulst (1816-1891) may be largely unknown to the world outside of the Netherlands but he presided over Dutch musical life for some forty years and several cities have streets or squares names after him. He was invited by Mendelssohn to study with him in Leipzig and was able to include Schumann among his friends. Later, Verhulst became conductor of the Felix Meritis Orchestra, the Netherlands’s best ensemble until the creation of the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
This excellent release, Chandos’s second CD of Verhulst’s music (his Mass is on CHAN 10020), includes three orchestral overtures – two of them premiere recordings – before getting down to business with Verhulst’s one and only Symphony, a large-scale work that dates from 1841 when Verhulst was residing in Leipzig. The Symphony is by far the more interesting music, the first movement opening with a deeply felt Introduction redolent of Schumann and Beethoven before plunging into an Allegro, which despite its slightly quirky agitated character still contains some memorably lyrical music. The slow movement, a gracious but superficial Andante, is the least satisfactory; however, the Mendelssohnian scherzo and the finale are pure delight, the gossamer world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream never far away, especially in the off-beats of the scherzo. The performance by the Hague Residentie Orchestra under Matthias Bamert is eminently satisfactory. The spacious, ample recording is characteristic of Chandos at its best.
The overtures are more derivative and reek of Weber and Spohr, and imbued with that all-purpose early Romantic angst which palls all-too-rapidly, but pleasing enough and certainly no barrier to exploring the worthwhile rarity that is the Symphony. Rather belatedly we re-assessing Dutch symphonic music, a disc of the last two symphonies by Verhulst’s compatriot Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772-1847) has just been issued. This Chandos CD of Verhulst contains an excellent and very informative booklet note by Leo Samama.