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Piet Swerts Chamber Music

Clarinet Quintet*
2nd String Quartet

Roeland Hendrikx, clarinet/Tempera String Quartet*
Spiegel String Quartet

Phaedra 92045 - In Flanders' Fields Vol. 45

The accessible Clarinet Quintet by Piet Swerts (b.1960) has a darkish mood pervading the first movement; thoughtful, moving, but never too hard. Next a gentle Nocturne, followed by the fairly brief scherzo. Starting off like a Strauss waltz, this movement is a zanyish piece in a lilting 3/4time with much discourse between the instruments; full of fun and clever dialogue. The slow fourth movement harks back to music's grand master with a rather solemn cello pizzicato sounding akin to Bach's Air on a G String . The Finale:Rondo has an awkward gait, and occasional lyrical episodes. The playing throughout is beautiful, with perfect balance between clarinet and strings.

It is a return to dark times with dissonant stabbings at the opening of the Second String Quartet. This is followed by a Scherzo which has plenty of bite as well as a very ‘jolly' tune as its first subject. The slower Trio causes the thoughts to turn introspectively once more as melodic phrases sing over long chords. The reprise of the scherzo material with its awkward skitterings does not register total happy freedom. This music reminds one of the quartets of Shostakovich, but Swerts has his own voice.

The longest movement on the whole disc is an eleven and a half minute Canto funebre – a largo of such great depth and heartfelt beauty that listening to it, one feels a sort of inevitability of fate about the whole piece. The finale is substantial and marked La violenza con fuoco – which really says it all.

Piet Swerts's 2nd Quartet makes one want to hear more from this composer. It is superbly played by the Spiegel String Quartet and the disc is very finely recorded with a warm, yet not too reverberant sound.Hearing music like this makes one want to investigate further – to hear more of this man's music and wonder what the sounds of his compatriots might also be like. The whole disc is a wonderfully refreshing encounter to which I have already turned many times.

Dennis Day


See also http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/Vic_Nees.htm
and http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/Nina%20Stemme.htm