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

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

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 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

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 26, 2011

  • UPC: 5425008377872

  • Catalog Number: RFP 003

  • Label: Royal Flemish Philha

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Wim Henderickx

  • Conductor: Martyn Brabbins

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Flemish Philharmonic

  • Performer: Brabbins