Jan Van Gilse: Symphony No. 4 / Porcelijn, Netherlands Symphony Orchestra

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GILSE Symphony No. 4 in A. Funeral Music on the Death of Uilenspiegel. Concert Overture in c David Porcelijn, cond; Netherlands SO CPO 777689 (62:33)

CPO here continues apace with its survey of Jan van Gilse’s symphonies. Details of the composer’s life and descriptions of his music can be found in reviews of his first three symphonies in 32:2 and 36:2. The Fourth Symphony in A Major occupied Gilse from 1910 to 1915, and appears to be his last fully completed symphony; only a fragment of a Fifth exists, dating from 1922, and since the composer lived for another 22 years after that, it has to be assumed that it wasn’t death that prevented him from completing it. The Concert Overture in C Minor has received a previous recording by Jac van Steen conducting the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra on an NM CD. It was reviewed in 31:5.

If you acquired one or both of David Porcelijn’s CPO recordings of Gilse’s first three symphonies, you’ll know what to expect of the Fourth, and there’s really not a lot to add. This is well-made music in high romantic style. Commenting on the First Symphony in 32:2, David H. North pegged it as Dvo?ák’s No. 4-1/3. Gilse has advanced considerably beyond Dvo?ák in his Fourth Symphony, but considering its date of composition, it’s still a decade or so behind its time. The most pervasive influence on the score, even more so than on Gilse’s Third Symphony, is Richard Strauss. The music is shot through with much of the same orchestral busyness—the flashes, splashes, and dashes of luminous colors—and the long-arching passages of melodic and harmonic nostalgia familiar from Strauss’s tone poems. If Gilse’s First Symphony was Dvo?ák’s No. 4-1/3, his Fourth Symphony is Strauss’s Don Juanenspiegel.

The Strauss connection is literary as well as musical. In 1941, during the German occupation of Holland, Gilse composed his Funeral Music on the Death of Uilenspiegel , the flip side, if you will, of Strauss’s Till . This, for Gilse, was how things ended for the legendary merry prankster. The music now anticipates the Strauss of Metamorphosen of four years later. If this and previous reviews have not taken Gilse very seriously, his Funeral Music is a score that commands serious attention and perhaps a re-evaluation of his work as a whole. The piece actually was extracted from a section of Gilse’s opera Thijl and then expanded to stand as an independent orchestral work. The Concert Overture of 1900 is Gilse’s first attempt at a piece for orchestra and it, like the First Symphony, contains echoes of Dvo?ák.

Of the three CPO discs released so far in this series, I find myself most impressed by this one. Performance and recording standards remain very high, and this is music anyone who enjoys beautifully crafted and magnificently scored orchestral music of the type and style described will derive much pleasure from. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777689-2

  • UPC: 761203768929

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: Jan Van Gilse

  • Conductor: David Porcelijn

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Netherlands Symphony Orchestra