Hoof, Jef van


Hoof, Jef van

Symfonie nr. 4 in H, First print (extra large size)


Jef van Hoof

Symphony no. 4 in B major

(Antwerp, 8 May 1886 – 24 April 1959)


In the structure of various multipart works by Jef van Hoof, there is a noticeable growing trend towards a so-called ‘monothematic’ structure. This term indicates that one theme is dominant and plays an important role in almost every movement, obviously this theme is adapted to the changing moods. Nowhere is this option as clear as in the Symphony no. 4 in B major, which respects the rules of the classic structure consisting of four parts. The piece was completed on 18 December 1950 at the ‘Spokenhof’, the beautiful historical home of the composer in Boechout.

The main theme, in the true sense of the word, is not at all an obstacle for a fascinating and truly symphonic discourse. After a very short, slow introduction of three bars (lento) it is introduced in the oboe solo, which is the beginning of the main movement of the first part (moderato). It completely flourishes, first in the clarinet, then in the cellos, and eventually it captures the entire orchestra. It shows a gentle, swaying character (grazioso, 6/8), before also taking on a more fierce attitude. The rather melancholic slow part, adagio – molto espressivo (doloroso) in G minor, is mostly dominated by the strings and the woodwinds.

Very striking is the fiery, obsessing and humorous scherzo in E-flat minor, as is often the case with van Hoof, in the 5/4 bar. The brass instruments and in particular the elaborate percussion section have some striking passages to process. Here, the theme remains in the shadow of the imposing rhythmics. In the last part (vivo, 2/4), with a return to B major, the theme becomes clean and triumphant.

Almost a year after its completion, the fourth symphony was performed for the first time in Studio 4 of the then Radio Building on Place Flagey in Ixelles, Brussels, on Sunday 4 November 1951. This took place during a concert offered to the composer for his 65th birthday. The Symphony Orchestra of the N.I.R (Nationaal Instituut voor Radio-omroep/National Institute for Radio Broadcasting) was conducted by Daniël Sternefeld. The manifestation was also broadcasted live on the radio. It was a roaring success, and the press agreed. Pretty soon, two more performances followed abroad, namely in The Netherlands, on 17 and 18 January 1952 in Alkmaar and in Haarlem by the Harlem Orchestra Association, led by Maximus Adam.

This symphony came out on CD with the BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels, under the Phaedra label. The recording took place in May 1986, on the same location where it was premiered. At the time, the BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels, was led by Fernand Terby. The recording was part of Vol. 13 of the series In Flanders’ Fields, Phaedra ADD 92013 (length 31’54”).

The autographic manuscript is preserved at the Letterenhuis in Antwerp (signature: 154.087).

Luc Leytens
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)

This score was published in cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Flemish Music (Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek – www.svm.be). For orchestral material, please go to the library of the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp.




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