HENK BADINGS: Symphonies Nos. 3, 10, 14 – Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra/ David Porcelijn, conductor – CPO 777 522-2, 68:01 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Go here for some history on this sadly neglected and vastly underrated composer. This is the second issue in what looks like will be a complete survey of Henk Badings—quite overdue, thank you. In the first issue we got a sample of early, middle, and late Badings, and here we get the same, notably the recording of his last symphony, the Symphonic Triptych, called “The Flemish” because of its Flanders Festival premiere in 1968. The work is noticeably advanced over the previous two, even though No. 10 is closer in time to it than to No. 3.
The last symphony is the most dramatic though also the most difficult, albeit in this age the shock has worn down considerably, and anyone remotely familiar with the more difficult works of Hindemith or Berg will have little trouble with this because it adheres to traditional forms and dramatic content in a more noticeable way. No. 3 is his most played and the most popular, if such a word even applies, and was premiered by Mengelberg (after Beinum had performed No. 2—quite a heady start). It is very accessible, modern and using all sort of advanced devices but in a way that disguises what is going on. Badings was a lifelong explorer of the esoteric, even delving into electronic music in the 1950s along with strange scales (a 31-tone system), and never relegated his forms to the past, but saw them as a continuance of the symphonic tradition.
No. 10 is one of the more interesting pieces here because it was designed for an orchestra that was largely amateur, and involved a thorough reworking of the First Symphony. I would not have guessed that amateurs were involved in this work because it still requires a great deal of skill and emotional/musical maturity to bring it off successfully.
This is another terrific performance by the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor David Porcelijn, who seem to really be able to get at this music from the inside, abetted by CPO’s breathable sound. It is well worth your time and money, and the completed series will be a boon to all listeners and avid collectors.
— Steven Ritter