Borstlap

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Borstlap
LABELS: Albany
WORKS: Hyperion’s Dream; Night Music; Capriccio
PERFORMER: Jacob Slagter (horn), Vesko Eschkenazy (violin), Vladimir Mendelssohn (viola), Dmitri Ferschtman (cello), Alwin Bar (pno)
CATALOGUE NO: TROY 220
Modern symphonic poems are like buses. Just when you’ve held forth on their infrequency – and intimated that this might have something to do with their unreliability as vehicles for the late 20th century — along comes another one. But while Poul Ruders energetically drives his along new paths (see my review of his Solar Trilogy last month), the Dutch composer John Borstlap (b!950) seems to expect the engine to start all on its own.

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Hyperion i Dream (1992) for cello and piano (the avowed symphonic poem here) and Night Music (1993) for viola and piano are like Brahms with significantly fewer ‘wrong’ notes than Schoenberg would have provided, while Capriccio (1994) proves that tonal music for violin, horn and piano can too easily sound cannily Brahmsian anyway. At times, the music’s gestures and unfolding come close to pastiche. And that’s the trouble, really: not where Borstlap starts from (however unpromising that may seem) but what’s done — or not done – with it. Where this music departs from its model, it wanders without character or aim, not helped here by close-miked strings and some noisy breathing. I can’t see the point at all; give me the real thing any day. Keith Potter