PIET SWERTS (b.1960): A Symphony of Trees for Soprano, Tenor, Chorus and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 04T010
Reference: PH 92098
Description: This is a monumental, hugely impressive and moving work, similar in scope, scale and idiom to Swerts' choral second symphony (11J115). The piece has very much the character of a war requiem (though it contains no liturgical texts), and commemorates the appalling slaughter of Ypres and Passchendaele in 1917. The war poet here is Ivor Gurney, whose poems supply most of the texts. Gurney was a nature-lover who deeply deplored the destruction of the land in the war, which occurs as a metaphor for the horrors of war in many of the poems. This and the planting of rows of trees as a memorial to mark the battle lines around Ypres provide the title and overall theme of the work. The oratorio-symphony begins with an arresting post-minimalist introduction, very Glassian, which recurs as an orchestral interlude later, but this is the only part of the piece that sounds minimalist, though many of the movements are based on ostinato figures. Britten and especially Mahler are far more frequently evoked as models, and some phrases seem to borrow explicitly from Romantic Mahlerian nature-scapes. Gurney treats the horrific imagery of war less explicitly and with more Romantic pathos and sentiment than Owen or Sassoon, and accordingly the predominant mood here is one of deep, eloquent lament; however in the central "movement" (of five sections into which the nineteen movements fall), the passionate condemnation of war erupts in a secular Dies Irae and Lacrimosa, shattering and shattered respectively. The atmosphere of melancholy and somber remembrance is re-established, revealing the work's arch-form, which ends with a bleak landscape over which an offstage trumpet intones the Last Post, followed by a grand apotheosis of regeneration and a final blaze of optimism for the future. 2 CDs. Texts included. Lee Bissett (soprano), Thomas Blondelle (tenor), Choirs: Cantclaer Children’s Choir, Collegium de Dunis, Con Cuore, deCHORALE, Ypres Chamber Choir, Kortrijk Vocal Ensemble, Laidos, Qui Vive, Roeslare Chamber Choir, Rondinella Youth Choir, Voices!, Flanders Symphony Orchestra; David Angus.