Jef Van Hoof

Symphonic music and orchestral songs

In Flanders’ Fields vol.51
CD Phaedra 92051

Tired of listening to Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss? You need something else to listen to? Why not give Flemish composer Jef van Hoof a chance? Van Hoof  (1886-1959) was a prolific composer (studied with Gilson) of chorus pieces, symphonies, songs, piano music and operas.
His works were important contributions to the struggle for the emancipation of Flemish culture.
Van Hoof composed in a neo-romantic style with a penchant for expansive sonorities. Flanders’ only serious cd-label Phaedera issued two cd’s with his work and they’re worthwhile purchasing. The Cd under review contains a suite from his opera Meivuur (May Fire) which makes you long to hear the opera itself, his third symphony and several of his orchestral songs. The latter are often in Dutch but also in German. His songs are on the same par as the best of Lieder compositions elsewhere in Europe. Van Hoof’s lyrical ‘Drei Lieder im Volkston’ are especially enchanting and his third symphony will be a happy surprise for those who love the genre. It’s a work of about 31 minutes consisting of four parts full of sensitive, tragic, sarcastic and heroic feelings. The second part ‘tempo di marcia funebra” is of a catching simplicity but also the short triumphant finale will make you wonder why you have never heard of this composer before. The Pannon Philharmonic orchestra and its conductor Zsolt Hamar play this music almost as to the manner born.
Soprano Ann de Renais is a Phaedra discovery. She is a soprano with a bright lean quality, warm phrasing, a sense of legato and voice colouring. Her singing is wonderfully suited to the songs and her enunciation not bad at all. Yet it also shows she’s not raised in singing this repertoire and here and there she is lacking that ‘great tradition’ of the great Flemish sopranos of yesteryear who when they sang in their mother tongue every word could easily be understood. But this is only a minor quibble in an otherwise wonderful CD release.

Rudi van den Bulck, Opera Nostalgia