Hyperion Records

Mythe der lente 'Myth of Spring'

Mythe der lente (‘Myth of Spring’, 1895) is inspired by, in the composer’s words, the ‘spring myths of the old Edda. Gerda (the blossoming earth) suddenly wakes up from her winter sleep. Her young face radiates sweetness and a love of life; flowers blossom on her cheeks. Love swells in her heart and everything sings of a new and strong life. She hears the echoing horn signals of her approaching bridegroom: Freyr (the spring sun). He comes running, jubilant, and they rush into each others’ arms, shouting with joy and love. And resounding far and wide you hear: spring is reborn!’

The musical form is an ingenious, quasi-monothematic sonata paraphrase. After an atmospheric introduction, Mortelmans launches into a rocking cantilena, which, for the sake of convenience, we can associate with the goddess Gerda. There is a definite suggestion of a sonata form but the melody that acts as second theme is in fact a variation of the main cantilena. Just as we are about to prepare ourselves for the development, Mortelmans has a surprise in store: when he introduces the spring God Freyr, he does so with a repetitive, mystic passage with motifs from the brass section. This passage immediately conjures up the atmosphere of Sibelius’s Lemminkäinensuite, composed the following year (and it even foreshadows a theme from Sibelius’s later Fifth Symphony of 1915). Just as his Finnish colleague did, Mortelmans therefore reaches—at more or less the same moment—a symbiosis between static, atmospheric and languorous, neo-Romantic music within a mythologically tinted programme. In contrast to the more audacious Sibelius, Mortelmans quickly tips the passage over into Wagnerian pathos.

Mortelmans then transforms the contrast between Gerda’s feminine cantabile and the lascivious, masculine pounding of the hoofs of her spring God into a large-scale hallucination in which the orchestra continuously winds itself around the two themes. The strikingly melodious and harmonious play of voices, the superfluity of eruptions and the refined atmospherics of this composition make Mythe der lente a many-layered work that leaves simple mythology far behind and permits a multitude of interpretations: artistic, gender-related or even ecological.

from notes by Tom Janssens © 2009
English: Christine Davies

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