Lex van Delden

0 of 5 stars

Lex van Delden
Quartetto, Op.58
Sestetto per Archi, Op.97
Duo per Flauto ed Arpa, Op.27
Introduzione e Danza (Judith), Op.26
Nonetto per Amsterdam, Op.101

Viotta Ensemble

Recorded between 6-9 June 2004 in Doopsgezinde Singelkerk, Amsterdam

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: July 2005
Duration: 71 minutes

Like many other artists who had direct experience of warfare and its consequences (he was a resistance fighter during World War Two and he lost most of his family to the Nazi death-camps), the self-taught Dutch composer Lex van Delden (1919-88) strove to find stability through the perfection of his art. The commitment to diatonic music (while still absorbing the fluctuating musical styles of his milieu), to clarity of form (the improvisatory freedom of the works on this disc often conceals the rigorous working-out of ideas) and to writing for specific performers (a large part of his output was written with his home city’s Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra in mind, either as a whole, or as here, selected members) bears witness to van Delden’s need to communicate within a firmly rooted aesthetic environment.

This recording, featuring works of Lex van Delden, for various instrumental combinations and played by the Viotta Ensemble (comprising members of the Concertgebouw Orchestra), is an absolute gem. Not only are the works themselves original and thoroughly engaging, but the performances are impeccable and the recording quality is clean and naturally detailed.

I said original, because despite the fleeting glimpses of Debussy and Hindemith (the Duo for flute and harp), Stravinsky (Introduction and Dance & Nonet for Amsterdam), or more generally the wit of Prokofiev and the string-writing of Bartók, you can’t really point to any specific influence – unless, as has been suggested, it’s that of Sweenlinck and his devotion to highly formal compositional procedures. The Quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello, which opens the disc, is a delicate, well-crafted blend of jaunty rhythms and strict counterpoint, contrasting with the free, cantor-like voice of the flute entwining its partner in the Duo for Flute and Harp.

Between these works is the Sextet for Strings, rhythmically vital and full of colourful effects like staggered chords and antiphonal interplay (the score requires the musicians to form two trios). The Introduction and Dance that follows is a colourful exercise in narrative through texture and timbre, itself a perfect introduction to the final work on the disc, the instrumentally expansive (and very witty) Nonet for Amsterdam, where van Delden uses the nine letters of the name of his birthplace to build a central theme around which the work is constructed.

Repeated listening of this release only reinforced my initial reaction: genuine, highly idiomatic music superbly played and recorded. For those interested in exploring van Delden’s orchestral output, there are recordings available on Etcetera by the Concertgebouw under such august conductors as Eduard van Beinum, George Szell, Eugen Jochum and Bernard Haitink.

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