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ClassicsOnline Home » VAN DER ROOST, J.: Sinfonia Hungarica / From Ancient Times (Philharmonic Winds OSAKAN, Van der Roost)
The music of Belgian-born Jan Van der Roost has been performed all over the world, gaining popular acclaim wherever it is heard. From Ancient Times pays tribute to the golden age of the Franco-Flemish School of the 15th and 16th centuries represented by composers such as Dufay, Ockeghem, Josquin Desprez and Lassus. Van der Roost’s Sinfonia Hungarica evokes the dramatic events of the reigns of Attila the Hun, Árpád, the first ruler of Hungary, and István (Stephen I) who introduced Christianity into Hungary.
Jan Van der Roost (b 1956)
Sinfonia Hungarica • From Ancient Times
Jan Van der Roost was born in Duffel, Belgium, in 1956. He studied trombone, music history and musical education at the Lemmensinstituut in Leuven (Louvain) and continued his studies at the Royal Conservatoires of Ghent and Antwerp, where he qualified as a conductor and a composer. Today, he teaches at the Lemmensinstituut in Leuven, and serves as special guest professor at the Shobi Institute of Music in Tokyo, guest professor at the Nagoya University of Art and guest professor at Senzoku Gakuen in Kawasaki. In 2013 he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonic Winds OSAKAN (Japan). Besides being a prolific composer, he is very much in demand as an adjudicator, lecturer, clinician and guest conductor. His increasing musical activities have brought him to more than 45 different countries on four continents, and his compositions are performed and recorded all over the world. In early 2001 a CD containing four of his works for chamber orchestra was released by EMI Classics, and the Slovakian Radio Symphony Orchestra recorded three of his compositions, which were released in early 2003 by the German label Valve-Hearts. In early 2004 Phaedra Records released an all-Van der Roost album containing solo concertos for trumpet, guitar and horn. 2011 saw the release of three works by Van der Roost: Concerto Doppio (featuring Eddy Vanoosthuyes and Neshu Neshev on clarinet) by the Sofia Soloists on Aliud Records; Polish Radio recorded his Contemplations for Choir and Organ for Phaedra Records; and his four-part Chemical Suite for Trombone Quartet was released by the American label Navona Records (Parma Records) on the compilation CD Sculpting the Air. On that same label a CD containing three of his orchestral works was released in 2013, performed by the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Lande conducting.
Van der Roost’s list of works represents a wide variety of genres and styles, including two oratorios, a symphony and some smaller works for symphony orchestra, a Guitar Concerto (dedicated to Joaquín Rodrigo whom he met in person in Madrid in 1993), a Concerto for Trumpet and String Orchestra (dedicated to and commissioned by the Norwegian virtuoso Ole Edvard Antonsen), a Double Concerto for Two Clarinets and String Orchestra (dedicated to Walter and Anne Boeykens), a cycle of Lieder for baritone and chamber orchestra, works for strings or chamber orchestra, chamber music, numerous brass and wind orchestra compositions (including a three movement symphony for large wind orchestra), choral music, and a variety of instrumental solos. Many of these compositions have been broadcast on radio and television in various countries, and most of them have been recorded on albums by renowned performers. Jan Van der Roost has composed works commissioned by performers from Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, the United States, Japan, Spain, France, Singapore, Austria, Canada, Norway, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Hungary, Colombia, and Croatia.
For more information on Van der Roost and his music visit www.janvanderroost.com.
Sinfonia Hungarica (2001)
Both works on this recording are inspired by the past, albeit in a different way. Sinfonia Hungarica basically uses historical figures and key events from Hungary’s (pre-)history while From Ancient Times stylistically goes back to previous eras by using compositional techniques in a “modern” way, thus paying homage to the famous Franco-Flemish school of composers that dominated European music during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Without following a real “script”, Sinfonia Hungarica could be described as a musical mini-evocation of historical events in Hungary before its first king, István (Stephen I) was crowned in 1001. Attila (c 406), King of the Huns from 434–53, often called “The scourge of God”, is the central figure of the first movement, mainly characterized by fear, threat, aggression and cruelty. Attila’s brother, Buda, however, has a more heroic theme, while his beloved wife, Rika, has a lyrical melody. The exciting ending of this opening movement illustrates the dreaded speed of Attila’s troops: they pursued their victims and killed them all. The second movement focuses on Árpád (c 840–c 907), the founder of the Hungarian State. It starts with an atmospheric passage evoking his grandmother, Emese, who dreamt about his future destiny. One of Árpád’s opponents, the Bulgarian Prince Zalan, was chased away after a fight. After this, Árpád officially named the territory “Magyarorszag”. The final movement is named after István (c 975–1038), the king who introduced Christianity into Hungary and who was crowned by Pope Sylvester II on 1 January 1001.
A rather solemn start leads to another war-like passage, ending with some loud crashes from the percussion section. This symbolises the fact that the body of the pagan Koppany was cut into four pieces, and sent to the four castles of the country as an example to others. After a quiet, almost religious intermezzo, the National Hymn of Hungary is introduced. This broad “grandioso” ending also has a symbolic meaning: after ten centuries, Hungary has many reasons to look back on the past with pride, and to look forward to the future with optimism and confidence.
Incidentally, the beautiful theme of the national hymn appears throughout the symphony. It is often hidden, however, or partially hidden. It is used as a “thread,” hardly recognisable at the beginning, and becoming more and more obvious near the end. It concludes the symphony as the “final apotheosis,” making the band sound like a majestic living organ.
From Ancient Times (2009)
From Ancient Times is a sizeable work, inspired largely by the music of the Renaissance Franco-Flemish School. No literal references are made, but some of the compositional principles and techniques of that style—generally considered to be the origin of western music—are used here. This work is a tribute to a golden age in which composers from the Low Countries could be found practically all over Europe, at the major courts and cultural centres. Some of the great names of that time are Orlandus Lassus, Josquin Desprez, Adrian Willaert, Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht, Heinrich Isaac, Guillaume Dufay and Philippus de Monte. In other arts such as tapestry weaving, typography and painting, the Flemish regions also set the tone, with leading exponents such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Brueghel, and Van Eyck. Unfortunately, this rich cultural advantage has declined over time, through numerous wars.
In this composition, music from even earlier times can also be found: Gregorian reminiscences at the beginning, a medieval dance (an Estampie)…this work is indeed based on “ancient times” although its sound is mostly contemporary. A few “witticisms” are brought into play: the ostinato in the basses (in the Estampie) for example, is based on the notes E B B A (European Brass Band Organisation), and the first harmony of the Estampie theme consists of an accumulation of fourths, using the note names that can be found in “VLAMO”, the commissioning Flemish Amateur Music Organisation (who are also in charge of the EBBC).
The original version of this work was written for brass band and has yet another dimension: Adolphe Sax is sometimes believed to have been a Frenchman, but he was born in Dinant, Belgium, where he lived for a long time before he moved to Paris. As well as the saxophone, he developed the saxhorn family—and members of this instrumental family, such as the flugelhorn, euphonium and bass, are represented in the concert band. Although the brass band is often considered to have Anglo-Saxon roots, it is actually a phenomenon from the Low Countries. And so various old ideas from different ears have been united to form a unique mix. From Ancient Times is an important work within my oeuvre: through this piece I have made a humble effort to pay homage to a number of my musical forefathers.
For this particular recording, the majestic sound of the pipe organ has been used, adding even more impact to the entire ensemble. Moreover, the fact that this recording is released in 2014 has an special significance: the slow movement (in romantic style) pays homage to the Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax (1814–1894) whose double centenary is celebrated that year.
Jan Van der Roost
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VAN DER ROOST, J.: Sinfonia Hungarica / From Ancie...