Variationen und Finale über ein altflämisches Lied
(Variations and Finale on an old Flemish song, 1929) was the first of Peeters’ big concert works. He loved his country’s heritage of carol and folk music, and this tune, Laet ons mit herten reyne, was one of his favourites; it had also been set many centuries earlier by John Bull. The work is in some respects a tribute to Marcel Dupré, to whom it is dedicated, and Dupré’s own Variations sur un vieux Noël
, Op 20, provided an exact model for the first two variations, with a solo trumpet accompanied by a chromatic counter-melody, and a canon for two flutes accompanied by a murmuring voix céleste. But Peeters could never be a mere imitator, and this music is very much his own. His six vividly contrasted variations are more fully worked-out than Dupré’s, and this is far more than a piece of fanciful virtuoso display. The bouncing parallel fifths and dancing pedals of Variation 3 are followed by melancholy and mystery in Variation 4, and then by a scintillating stream of chromatic fourths in Variation 5. The heart of the work comes in the eloquent sixth variation, where the tune is decorated in the soprano voice in the style of a Bach chorale prelude. The Finale begins, like Dupré’s, with a fast, spiky fugue full of crafty contrapuntal devices, and then erupts into a thunderous concluding toccata.
from notes by David Gammie © 2011