Henk Baddings Symphony No. 4 & 5
February 3, 2016
David Porcelijn conducts the Bochumer Symphony
One of the incredible bonuses of being able to review for Naxos is the introduction of new composers and music available to me. Such is the case with the Dutch composer Henk Badings (1907-1987) pedagogue and composer. His lack of popularity can be attributed to his dealings with the Nazi party during the war years. At one time his material was banned from being performed in his native country. As one Dutch friend put it so eloquently “The whole blacklisting was a bit McCarthy-esque as a great many composers, artists, bands and orchestras had signed up, simply because otherwise they would not be allowed to play (hence to make a living)!*) Principles are one thing, starvation another. Thankfully after about two years the zealousness of the immediate post-War righteousness had abated, and pretty much everyone who had not been an immediate collaborator or true propagator of Nazi propaganda or ideals was pardoned.”
The 4th Symphony was completed in December of 1943, had nothing to do with the war but instead is witty and has a natural sound that has truly grown on me during several listens to it. I don’t feel it is anything that you could compare to any of his contemporaries. He is unique and very melodic following a traditional Lento-Allegro, Scherzo, Largo, and Allegro format. It wasn’t performed until after the war in Rotterdam in 1947 dedicated to the conductor Eduard Flipse who also conducted the premiere. The opening movements begin with ominous chords like an oncoming storm that quickly dissipates into the introduction of the main theme with the trombones leading the way. After a brief opening the Scherzo turns into sweeping theme carried by the strings followed by another powerful burst of energy from the brass. The oboe and strings continue the memory with a hint of a fugue and staccato dissonant passages. It is a well done Scherzo and could very well find its way to my best of compilation CD’s, something that I’ve got for all types of allegros, andantes, vivaces, etc. The Largo is a yearning melancholy theme which reminds me of Strauss. The finale Allegro is somewhat slower than some but offers yet another strong melody which is passed from section to section nicely. This is a real winner.
The Fifth Symphony was a commissioned work for the 60th anniversary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Eduard van Beinum, who had been a supporter of his music since the 30’s. The four movements are very similar to the 4th; Lento-Allegro, Scherzo, Largo, and Presto. The Lento-Allegro definitely has jazzy passages not unlike Ellington, Prokofiev, or early Shostakovich. While quite dissonant the melody is still layered in the material to filter through. The Scherzo is clearly modern sounding with short cells of dissonant material followed by quiet passages. The Largo reminds me of film music which was also noted by a 1955 review of the material. His harmony with the brass adds so nicely to the overall quietness of the movement. The finale, a Presto is a boisterous with yet another strong melody.
To my knowledge this is the third release of material from CPO of his works. I look forward to more material.