HENK BADINGS: Symphonies Nos. 2, 7, 12 – Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra/ David Porcelijn, conductor – CPO

by | Mar 12, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

HENK BADINGS: Symphonies Nos. 2, 7, 12 – Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra/ David Porcelijn, conductor – CPO 777 272-2, 53:02 ****:

The story of Dutch composer Henk Badings (1907-87) is yet another sad chapter in the history of music. Born in the Dutch Indies, he early on realized his desire to compose. At 23, and still a student, he wrote his First Symphony while also studying geology before completing his coursework cum laude. Honegger, Hindemith, Milhaud, and Bartok are all influences, the first lingering through much of his work, the second in the early scores, and the last represented in some of the more jarring scores, like symphonies 7 and 12 on this disc.

He worked at several conservatories between 1935 and 1945, and by the end of the war was receiving many commissions from the Concertgebouw and other orchestras. In the fifties he dabbled in electronic music, though his symphonic scores are ultimately more important. Despite a modernist intellectual curiosity, he remained essentially a classicist, exploring the wonders of the new sounds within a cautiously conservative structure. Today his music is ignored in his own country, and rarely played elsewhere, despite the fact that he got many international awards and was not lacking for recognition of his achievements.

Symphony 1 is reminiscent of any number of excellent band pieces that I grew up with; that is to say, replete with the modalities of Hindemith with the rhythmic energy of the best American compositions. It is tonal, exciting, and a generally delightful work built on classical models. No. 7 (“Louisville”, 20 years later in 1954) was a commission for the Louisville Orchestra and is more diffuse than his early work. There is more chance for individual sections of the orchestra to engage in chamber-like passages, and the moods are more mysterious even though the tonal concept remains. The last movement reminds me of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. Symphony 12 (1964) is more ominous, dark, and uses aleatoric elements. The work reminds me at times of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, though that work is probably more aggressive than this one. It is punctuated with brass and woodwind ejaculations, and has a strange lyricism about it that might seem like a film score for a suspense movie.

Badings has been unfairly neglected; this is quality music that offers much enjoyment with only a little stretching of the ears in the last symphony, and Nos. 1 and 7 pose no problems at all to immediate satisfaction. The sound is very nicely done here, well capturing the forces of the Janacek Philharmonic, effortlessly engaged in excellent performances by conductor David Porcelijn. Recommended.

— Steven Ritter

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