Chiel MEIJERING (b. 1954)
Rock That Flute - Concerto Movements for Eagle recorder and strings
Soprano’s Lament [3:40]
The Pied Piper (IV) [4:15]
The Mask Painted White [2:46]
Morning Mist in Bergen [3:11]
Now! (III) [4:47]
In the Happiest, the Darkest [4:51]
Rock that Flute [2:32]
Now! (II) [3:20]
Sweet and Crazy [2:53]
The Pied Piper (III) [3:23]
Angel’s Gaze [5:14]
Pentatonic Insomnia [7:14]
Eagles Commonly Fly Alone [3:50]
Dan Laurin (recorder)
1B1 (Ensemble Bjergsted 1)/Jan BÝranger
rec. February 2014, Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway.
BIS BIS-2145 SACD [57:43]
Chiel Meijering has been part of Dutch musical furniture for a long time now, and I remember one of his scores – with a rude title – being one of my first jobs as a copyist for his publisher Donemus, in the days before computers when instrumental material was written out monkishly by hand in indian ink onto waxed paper. This recording is not only a showcase for Meijering’s prolific and energetically eclectic creativity, but also for a recent re-design of an ancient instrument in the form of the Eagle recorder, made by Adriana Breukink. This is a ‘heavy and big’ recorder with a wider-bore and extra keys which collectively beef up what is traditionally a rather mellow instrument. In this recording the sound is hardly different to that of a conventional recorder, but you can hear from the ebullience of some of the orchestrations that it offers a good deal more flexibility in terms of dynamic range.
Adriana and Chiel’s correspondence with performer Dan Laurin is outlined in the booklet, and the genesis of the music on this very fine release indicates that this is the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to new music for the Eagle recorder. There are apparently now some 40 concertos for Eagle recorder and string orchestra by Chiel Meijering, and so this is in effect a ‘sampler’ disc for performers on the lookout for new music.
Rock That Flute is in some ways a suitable title for this programme as a whole, though I can imagine it putting some people off. In fact there are so many subtle delights here that ‘rock’ is the last thing that would occur to me as a general catch-all. In some tracks, such as Now! (Part 3) the recorder is set back in the mix, emerging from the string sound like a voice from a well of gently swirling colours. There are of course lively numbers, the opening Soprano’s Lament (Part 1) being one, the driving rhythms of which suggesting a chase of some kind – perhaps that described by Meijering, “…when I’m writing these concertos I feel like death is on my heels; I have to go, go, go before he gets me!!!”
Meijering’s language is tonal: arguably romantic and at times cinematic, but always highly individual. Laurin describes it as walking “on shards of memories. I seem to recognize bits and pieces of broken melodies, harmonies and gestures, of times past… but the musical landscape is changed; it constantly changes…” It’s hard to pin down, and this is part of the fascination. Meijering doesn’t go in for alternative techniques and funny noises, and while there is some ornamental flourish and plenty of stunning playing these are also works that are more about music than about virtuosity. Without falling into stereotype this music to me is very much about the joy of being alive and the sheer vertiginous delight in having the ability to craft such objects, and the scary drive which compels their creation, chased and driven as are we all by the short fuse of fragile mortality. As such these pieces convey pleasure and enjoyment without imposing ego or layers of intellectual artificiality.
Laurin’s selection of pieces for this disc “has been guided by my wish for contrasts” and the selection was done in consultation with the composer. In some ways it would also have been interesting to hear some of these compact concertos complete rather than in a big heap of well-chosen highlights, but maybe that’s a project for the future. Even with 40+ such works I’m sure a box set would be reasonably manageable, given the baroque brevity of these individual movements. As it is, what we have here is one big ‘suite’ of excellent music for recorder and strings, superbly performed and recorded to BIS’s extremely high standard. It’s cheered me up no end.