Gilson/De Boeck

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Gilson/De Boeck
LABELS: Discover International
WORKS: De Zee; Symphony in G
PERFORMER: BRTN PO Brussels/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
CATALOGUE NO: DICD 920126 DDD
These two Belgians were born in the same year, 1865, over 40 years after their more famous compatriot, César Franck. Both threw themselves into the creation of stolidly Romantic music just at the time when Debussy’s Impressionism was beginning to change the face of orchestral music for ever. Gilson’s De Zee (‘The Sea’) is a competent but unremarkable excursion into the pictorial world of the symphonic poem. In fact it was written to accompany poetry by Eddy Levis, which has been all but forgotten, along with a 19-piece brass band and male chorus which originally embellished the last movement.

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It would be intriguing to hear Gilson’s acknowledged masterpiece in all its folie de grandeur, for without these bolt-on extras it lacks real interest. Vivid orchestral colour and melodic chirpiness are evidence of the Russian influence in his music, but he cannot capture the well-spring of emotion that should underlie it. The long slow movement (‘Twilight’) sprawls uneasily, and the woodwind writing is ungainly, especially in this matter-of-fact performance. The last movement (‘Tempest’) is a brave attempt at orchestral scene-painting, but not a patch on the whirlwind tumult of the storm in Strauss’s Alpine Symphony.

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De Boeck’s Symphony in G has a rumbustious, naive charm, but is uneven in its inspiration. The chatterbox Scherzo could be a jolly little lollipop. The Andante has a grand sweeping melody, which suffers for want of a decent working out. Christopher Lambton