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Hyperion Records

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Phidias (study for the Apotheosis of Homer) (c1827) by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
San Diego Museum of Art / Museum Purchase with Earle W Grant Endowment funds / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67766
Recording details: September 2008
Koningin Elisabethzaal, Antwerp, Belgium
Produced by Alexander Van Ingen
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: October 2009
Total duration: 12 minutes 42 seconds

'Mortlemans' scoring is full of colour and drama … the music is vividly compelling … throughout the progamme, the richness of the orchestration readily holds the listener's attention, especially in such responsive performances from the Royal Flemish Philharmonic under the highly sympathetic Martyn Brabbins, well projected by a splendidly spacious Hyperion recording' (Gramophone)

'Lush, melodic and romantic … the excellent Martyn Brabbins and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic have resurrrected the Wagnerian-Straussian tone poems … as for the grand, rhapsodic 'Homeric' Symphony, it's epic' (The Observer)

'This is a fine orchestra, capable of silky smooth string playing where necessary, and excellent in all departments. Brabbins steers a clear path avoiding the mundane on the one hand, and the over-egged romantic hysteria on the other, and his orchestra, from the end result, seem to me to have enjoyed the music making hugely. These are no idle run-throughs—ensemble is tight, dynamics are carefully graded and the result is some intense music-making … this release is the first of a series, further issues in which I look forward to immensely' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'If you have a warm place in your heart for Glazunov then this new name should be right up your street. This to me completely unfamiliar music is presented with real style by Hyperion, by Brabbins and his orchestra and by the liner-note writer Tom Janssens' (MusicWeb International)

'If all three works pay tribute to Wagner in terms of musical landscape, they still have a voice of their own—and a pleasingly sonorous voice at that' (Scotland on Sunday)

Morgenstemming 'Morning Mood'
composer
1922

The title and size of Morgenstemming (‘Morning Mood’) suggested another symphonic poem about nature in the mould of Mythe der lente. However, the concert programme for the premiere suggests a much more abstract intention: ‘This piece comprises the lyrical outpourings of a man who loves nature and who derives inspiration and a zest for life from nature’s pure sources. But nature also arouses a silent inner prayer to the Almighty, the Creator of beauty.’ Mortelmans had learnt his lesson: instead of coercing the listener’s fantasy, he gave full rein to his pantheistic feeling for life, speaking ‘the language of the inexplicable’.

In Morgenstemming, Mortelmans greets the morning with a somewhat naive horn signal, which is answered by murmuring strings. The light of these first rays of sun can still be recognized as stemming from Wagner although there are also interesting parallels to be drawn with the first generation of composers of the ‘English musical renaissance’. Wagnerian mood scenes are not always what one needs first thing in the morning, but Mortelmans knows how to restrain himself. The music opens out, apparently suggesting the culmination of sunrise. Then follows a compelling melody (including an acceleration at the end of the phrase, so typical of Flemish music) and a variation on the arrival of dawn heard earlier. Mortelmans is not the type to stretch dawn throughout a whole composition in the style of Grieg. Instead, he proceeds to take old and new material and creates a platform for allowing resignation and exuberance to alternate with each other. It is as if Mortelmans’ inward thoughts offer a serene alternative to the virulent luxury of nature. This introspective contemplation finally gets the last word, although Mortelmans nevertheless includes one more sudden, dramatic flare-up in the closing bars.

from notes by Tom Janssens © 2009
English: Christine Davies

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