Sunday, January 12, 2014

Visual Lowlands Music - Bernard Zweers's Symphony no. 3, "To My Fatherland"

In my Bernard Wagenaar article I said that I'd limit myself to 20th century Lowlands composers, and lo and behold I've caught myself doing a late-19th-century showcaser, but I'll allow it for a Visual Music entry.  Bernard Zweers (1854-1924) is credited for creating a uniquely Dutch compositional voice in a time when Dutch composition was so far from the limelight it was growing icicles, and his Symphony no. 3, "To My Fatherland" is his most famous work, despite its infrequent exposure.  The low number of performances is due to its length at over an hour and the enormous orchestra it requires (including a four-piece saxhorn section!).  I'll leave you to find it on YouTube, mostly to avoid linking to an hour-long work in a brief article, and also to not distract from the cover of the Noske edition, which is the best use of the Franz Stuck font since an actual Franz Stuck painting.

It's sad to note that Noske lost quite a bit of money on the score due to poor sales, because this is some choice fin-de-siècle design.  The center square is a perfect marriage of modernist geometric design and late-19th-century botanical stenciling, a shockingly common detail in covers from this time and quite welcome despite its overexposure.  The gold-green color scheme is unexpected and quite glowing despite its age, as if the leaves are set in a bed of gold and the dots are pods.  The surrounding bands of dots are quite interesting for the time, more reminiscent of 60's futurism than Belle Époque.  They infer a third dimension that the centerpiece lacks, and their combination with the border lines gives the impression of peering through the walls of a 19th-century greenhouse, tastefully organized with spare order.  Shame about the library sticker, though I'm sure whatever plants Zweers is growing in there can break out and overtake it if properly watered.


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