RUUD VAN EETEN: “Inner Music” = Punctus Einz; Jhero; Piano Quintet No. 1 – Amstel Saxophone Quartet/Matangi String Q./Saskia Lankhoorn, p.– Navona NV5954 [Distr. by Naxos] (6/10/14) 39:42 ***:
I had never heard of Netherlands composer Ruud Van Eeten until this interesting new collection. He is a graduate of the Brabants Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory at the Hague, specializing in conducting.
I mostly enjoyed this set of three of his chamber works but I most also say they leave an incomplete impression, due mostly to the great differences in tone that – in turn – makes Van Eeten’s style a little hard to figure out.
For example, his saxophone quartet, Punctus Einz, the “first punctus”, is based on the Bach Art of the Fugue (its first punctus). It is a very short (2:52) work that really ends disappointingly quickly. Although intended mostly as an encore, it actually reminded me a bit of the music of Michael Torke for its ebullient sparkle. I think saxophonists would really enjoy it and I wish there was more.
The string quartet, Jhero, could not be more different. Named for a painting by the Dutch symbolist Hieronymous Bosch on themes of heaven, seduction and hell, the work is expectedly dark and brooding (as are most of Bosch’s fascinating and somewhat disconcerting works). Written in one fairly long movement, the tone is, indeed, pretty bleak throughout. Even when the rhythmic pace picks a bit it reminded me a bit of Shostakovich and leaves a fairly strong impression, but I did feel the work dragged a bit in places.
Van Eeten’s Piano Quintet No.1 is, again, quite a departure from the other two works included here. We get very little background info in the liner notes by Van Eeten, himself. The vocabulary here is intentionally reminiscent of Mahler and the composer does correctly point out the very classical nature of the structures and feel of each of the work’s four movements. I think, actually, that this piece is the one in this set I enjoyed the most.
Ruud Van Eeten is clearly a talented and well-trained musician. If there is a problem with these works (not that there truly is) it might be that each of them could be misconstrued as music by a different “name” composer; which is to say I am not sure that Van Eeten has a definite style all his own, yet. I would also say that this disc is interesting but, at just under forty minutes, there is room here for another short piece or two that might help complete the picture.