WORKS: Das Grüne Gesicht Suite; Dorian Gray Suite; Spleen Suite; Six One-Act Plays for 29 Musicians
PERFORMER: Tasmanian SO/David Porcelijn
CATALOGUE NO: EC 3924-2 (distr. Codaex)
Few British listeners, I suspect, will have heard the music of Hans Kox. Born in 1930, this Dutch composer appears to have been shunned by the establishment throughout the Sixties for opposing a modernist aesthetic, but more recently his reputation has grown considerably thanks largely to the devoted efforts of interpreters such as conductor David Porcelijn. Certainly, on the evidence of this excellently performed disc, his is a distinctive voice cultivating an accessible contemporary musical language, but without slavish adherence to any one school of composition.
The four orchestral suites featured here provide a fine overview of his gifts and make one impatient to hear some of Kox’s larger-scale works such as the four symphonies and the Anne Frank Cantata. An ideal entry point is the ballet Spleen (1960) in which Kox serves up a most agreeable sequence of movements contrasting swirling, almost Kurt Weill-like ostinato patterns with more lyrical woodwind interludes. No less attractive are the Six One-Act Plays for chamber orchestra (1971) where static Ligeti-like string textures provide an intriguing backcloth to some whimsical acrobatics for various solo instruments. A more intense, almost Expressionist level of musical imagery predominates in the suites from the operas Das Grüne Gesicht (1994) and Dorian Gray (1979), though both scores temper such moments with unexpected elements of the grotesque. Erik Levi