VAN ANROOY:  Piet Hein Rhapsody.  DOPPER:  Ciaconna gotica.  Symphony No. 7 "Zuiderzee."
Netherlands Radio Symphony Orch/Kees Bakels, cond.

NM CLASSICS 92060 (F) (DDD) TT: 61:08

Schwann/Opus lists no other recordings of music by either of these Dutch composers.  The major figure is Cornelis Dopper (1870-1954), who was best known as a conductor, first of opera then as assistant conductor (at the suggestion of Willem Mengelberg) of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra beginning in 1908. Surprisingly, he gave Netherlands premieres of Debussy's La Mer and IbČria, Mussorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain, Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole, and Scriabin's Piano Concerto.  Dopper  conducted in the United States about this time as well, giving the American premiere of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.  He first came to attention as a composer with his first symphony, subtitled "Rembrandt."  Mengelberg was impressed with this and conducted the revised version with the Concertgebouw in 1918, as well as the Symphony No. 7 and Ciaconna gotica, recording the latter for Telefunken April 9, 1940.

Symphony No. 7 was premiered in November 1918 with the composer conducting the Concertgebouw.  Scoring is for a large orchestra including celesta and organ.  Supposedly it was inspired by a boat trip on the Zuiderzee, a shallow inlet of the North Sea indenting the northeastern part of the Netherlands.  The first movement celebrates the beauty of nature, the second is a humoresque including sounds of a peasant wedding.  Longest movement of the symphony is the third (14:35), a melancholy Andante descriptive of a sunset with the sounds of a carillon drifting over the water. The final makes extensive use of lively Dutch folk tunes, bringing the symphony to a rousing close.  

Ciaconna gotica was written three years after "Zuiderzee," premiered in 1921. Mengelberg performed it often, not only in Holland but in major music centers of the world, recording it for Telefunken April 9, 1940.  This is considered to be the composer's finest work, and for good reason. It would be interesting to hear the original version; according to notes with this CD, it was shortened considerably.  What is heard on both recordings is the revised version, 16:37 in the Bakels recording, 19:23 in the Mengelberg.  Ciaconna gotica  consists of a brief theme and variations in a wide variety of styles, a majestic work unjustly neglected  today.

Piet Hein was a Dutch West India Company admiral who captured the Spanish silver fleet in 1628 and was immortalized through a song with his name by J. P. Heije with a tune by J. J. Viotta.  Piet Hein Rhapsody, composed in 1901, was a youthful work of Peter van Anrooy based in Heije's song written at the request of his composition teacher Johan Wagenaar.  His nine-minute Piet Hein, "Dutch Rhapsody for Large Orchestra" is brilliantly orchestrated, sure crowd-pleaser especially for Netherlanders who know the popular tune.  In spite of this delightful first opus, Anrooy's other music has been forgotten and he is best known as conductor of the Hague Philharmonic Orchestra which he led for many years beginning in 1917.  

 The Netherlands Radio Symphony plays very well in these performances, as they did on the NM Classics release of Dutch Overtures where the conductor was Jac van Steen. I've heard airchecks of dynamic performances of Piet Hein with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw, and, more recently, Riccardo Chailly with the same orchestra.  This new recording is respectable if not at that exalted level.  An older Philips LP with Antal Dorati and the Hague Philharmonic has long disappeared.  Mengelberg's Telefunken recording of Ciaconna gotica was issued in 1988 on Teldec (CD 243 723) as part of a collection of music by Dutch composers.  This  definitive performance of Dopper's masterpiece deserves reissue in a high-quality transfer.  A Dutch radio tape exists of a December 8, 1940 concert with Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw playing Dopper's Zuider Zee, issued many years go on a private LP. Doubtless eventually this authoritative performance will be issued on CD. Chandos has announced premiere recordings of Dopper's Symphony No. 2 coupled with Paan I and Paan II, with the Hague Residentie Orchestra under Matthias Bamert, a disc I look forward to with great interest.

R.E.B. (FEB. 2001)