Paul Gilson – Andante et scherzo pour violoncelle et orchestra ou piano
(Brussels, 15 June 1865 – Brussels, 3 February 1942)
Paul Gilson is without doubt one of the most remarkable composers in Belgian music history. Although he was largely self-taught, apart from a few composition lessons with François-Auguste Gevaert (1828-1908), he left behind a large, varied and high-quality oeuvre. In 1892 he made his breakthrough, internationally as well, with La mer (Esquisses symphoniques) – still considered the high point of his oeuvre – but it seems as if he could never match that early success. He practised just about all genres, but notable is his focus on music for wind instruments. He composed some three hundred works for wind orchestras, which earned him the nickname ‚father of Belgian wind music‘. Remarkably, Gilson was also the first composer internationally to write a concerto for saxophone: in 1902, he composed two concertos for alto saxophone.
Outside of composing, Gilson was also a very busy man. He taught at the Brussels and Antwerp Conservatories, was inspector of music education, and during World War I he was acting principal of the Antwerp Conservatoire. After his official teaching assignments, he continued working as a private teacher, to the extent that just about the entire generation of Belgian composers of the interwar period had been apprenticed to him. Gilson published numerous works on music theory, and he was also active as a reviewer and musicographer.
Gilson composed the Andante et scherzo for cello and orchestra in 1906, constructing it on the classical contrast between a lyrical, somewhat melancholic opening movement (Andante) and a more virtuoso, rhythmically powerful second movement (Scherzo). A short cadenza ties the two movements together. In the Scherzo, Gilson asks the cellist to handle his bow ‘saltando’ (Italian for ‘jumping’), i.e. with a quick bouncing, leaping stroke with the middle of the bow. This way of playing creates an energetic and dynamic sound, adding to its virtuoso character.
The work was part of the repertoire of Flemish cellist Marix Loevensohn (1880-1943), among others, who was the solo cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam from 1915 to 1936. In early 1918, Loevensohn played the Andante et scherzo with the Concertgebouw Orchestra along with the Cello Concerto by Cornelis Dopper, who also conducted the orchestra.
The otherwise unknown F. Hacks turned the work into a reduction for cello and piano.
The orchestral version was released on CD by Timora Rosler and the Flemish Radio Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins (Et’Cetera).
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
This publication is a facsimile of a copy housed at the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp (KVC 234207) and was made possible in collaboration with the Study Centre for Flemish Music (www.svm.be).
Read Flemish and German preface > HERE