Belgium

Belgium—Joseph Ryelandt

Belgian composer Joseph Ryelandt (1870–1965) was born and died in Bruges where he studied law until Edgar Tinel took him in as his sole student of composition. He was a devout Catholic who seemed almost indifferent to the fate of his works, which included a number of large-scale oratorios on different aspects of Christ’s life. He wrote, ‘‘IfGod wants my work to be recognized one day, it will. If not, what does it matter?’’ One might say, then, that the release from the Phaedra label with four ofRyelandt’s chamber pieces is providential. It reveals another unjustly neglected composer whose somewhat anachronistic style is irrelevant to its merits. Ryelandt did not place a premium on being stylistically au courant. Throughout his long life, he remained in the late-romantic tradition ofthe 19th century. He declared: ‘‘Whether the artist makes use of the most modern techniques or decides to work in a traditional manner is not really important. Techniques wear out, but what remains is that which breathes 2099 life into the work.’’

On Volume 55 of Phaedra’s indefatigable ‘‘In Flanders’ Fields’’ edition, discovering little known and lost Belgian music, the Spiegel String Quartet, double bassist Joost Maegerman, and pianist Jozef de Beenhouwer breathe ample life into Ryelandt’s Piano Quintet (1901), Adagio for String Quartet (1895), String Quartet no. 2 (1903), and Andante ‘‘Ach Tjanne’’ and Variations (1933). It seems that Ryelandt excelled in composing exquisite adagios and andantes. His lovely and moving Adagio from 1895 is all that he retained from an otherwise disowned string quartet. Thank heavens he kept this gem. The Adagio religioso from the Piano Quintet is also very touching. Had Ryelandt pushed much further in the direction in which he was going with this music, it might have become cloying, but he kept his balance and its effect. The Andante from the String Quartet is also extremely fine, with real depth of expression. Gorgeous melody abounds throughout these pieces. One can only hope that the Phaedra label gives us more. This CD (92055) is a special import thorough Records International.

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