Dutch Cornucopia / IFP / Pople, Cadogan Hall, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

It may be easier to name a Belgian composer (César Franck) than a Dutch one, but the Cornucopia title of this concert was certainly apt: from six wildly assorted sources came music of quality and surprise.

The 1923 song cycle of Hendrik Andriessen (father of the minimalist Louis), Miroir de Peine, left the deepest impression after the London Festival Orchestra concert. Ravishingly sung by Hanneke de Wit, it sets imagined laments of Mary at the Crucifixion to eloquent, largely unadorned lines, supported by string chords with occasional echoes of the voice part to maximum expressive effect.

Just as absorbing was The 5 Drives by Theo Loevendie, a UK premiere. A jazz veteran who came to concert music later, Loevendie conceived the work as a concerto for improvising soloist, in this case himself on soprano sax. The trick for the soloist is to know the orchestral material well – it's quite elaborate – and being singularly well qualified in this capacity, Loevendie made the whole work appear to spring from a single impulse. With its Arab-tinged jazz flavour and a freedom of rhythm rarely heard in jazz, it packed a quirky but unshowy punch.

Another original, the late-Romantic Alphons Diepenbrock, scored his De Vogels overture with a striking blend of high woodwind, trumpet and violin colours – like Mahler taken to extremes, but without the angst. The piece's classical gestures and good-humoured melodies almost lost their way in so many episodes, but the character was unmistakable.

Robin de Raaff's Piano Concerto, introduced sensitively to the UK by Ralph van Raat, pits incisive but determinedly non-virtuoso solos against a small, wind-dominated orchestra. It's packed with incident and builds towards an unresolved confrontation; a certain dryness in fast music gives way temporarily, and affectingly, to introverted Bartok-like stillness.

Henk Badings' powerful Largo en Allegro had the warmth, clear harmonic thrust, and at one point a direct rhythmic echo, of early Schoenberg. And a personable concerto by Unico van Wassenaer put in a word for Dutch baroque.