Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Sterling
WORKS: Saskia Overture; Symphony No. 2; Gijsbrecht van Aemstel Suite
PERFORMER: Holland Radio PO/Jean Fournet, Lucas Vis; Netherlands RSO/Antoni Wit
Bernhard Zweers (1854-1924) was one of the most prominent Dutch composers of the late 19th century, but this hardly led to lasting international fame. Though his name was familiar, I had never consciously heard a note of his music before listening to this disc. It’s highly competent and agreeable stuff, if unlikely to cause a great stir at any time. Although Zweers claimed that the great revelation which turned him into a composer was hearing Wagner’s Ring in Berlin at the age of 27, the Second Symphony which he wrote in the aftermath of that experience hardly shows a trace of Wagnerian influence. It’s a sturdy, Schumannesque score with the occasional whiff of Tchaikovskian ballet music in the inner movement. More impressive and individual are the five orchestral preludes commissioned for a staging of the theatrical epic Gijsbrecht van Aemstel in 1892 – broodingly atmospheric pieces with hints of the ‘Dies irae’ running through them. And the Saskia Overture – intended as a portrait of Rembrandt’s wife for the celebrations of the Rembrandt tercentenary – is a genuinely poetic piece partly based on a Catholic Marian hymn. The performances and recordings here are of various vintages, Saskia dating from 1973, Gijsbrecht a Netherlands Radio production from 1980 and the Symphony from 2001. The sound in the earlier items is sometimes a bit harsh, but it’s all acceptable, and Lucas Vis’s powerful performance of the Suite was well worth preserving. Calum MacDonald