Symfonie nr. 2 in As (first print)
Hoof, Jef Van
Hoof, Jef Van
Symfonie nr. 2 in As (first print) (1941)
(Antwerpen, 8 mei 1886 – Antwerpen, 24 april 1959)
Jef Van Hoof’s six symphonies were all created in the last twenty-one years of his life. He was already in his fifties and by that time his late Romantic style and idiom had been fully developed. His popularity was mainly due to the songs he wrote, mostly politically inspired songs. And even though his oeuvre had always been very diverse, it was still difficult to lose this one-sided fame.
His early symphonic works (symphonic poems, overtures and suites), in which he already proved himself a skilled orchestrator as a student of Paul Gilson, also contained a certain illustrative or descriptive content. Therefore, it came as a surprise to many when he went on to dedicate himself to a genre that is essentially rather abstract, and which on top of that was neglected by most Flemish composers of the Romantic movement. The First Symphony in A sharp (1938), which immediately received a lot of praise, shows clearly that Van Hoof had mastered the symphonic form.
The Symphony no. 2 in A flat major dates from 1941, and even though it is completely abstract, it can still be interpreted as a ‘war symphony’. In the margin of the first page of the manuscript, the composer wrote the following: ‘de gantsche weirelt is weg – effacé de ce monde’ (‘the whole world is gone’). The bithematic opening creates a general impression of elegiac musings with only rare moments of stronger accents. This withdrawn character explains why the Scherzo comes second here (this happens only once in his six symphonies). It sounds rather grim and defiant instead of exuberant. The slow movement in 5/4 carries the inscription ‘With bitterness’. The first theme sounds almost like a cry from the heart and contrasts sharply with the almost ghostly-chromatic part in the rest of the passage. Only in the Finale, which balances between sonata and rondo, the mist dissolves, as if into some slow processional march.
2. Sinfonie in As (1941)
Alle sechs Sinfonien von Jef Van Hoof entstanden in seinen einundzwanzig letzten Lebensjahren. Er war bereits über fünfzig und hatte seinen spätromantischen Stil und seine persönliche musikalische Sprache längst gefunden…