Albert Huybrechts – Suite pour 4 instruments à vent et piano, for flute, oboe, clarinet bassoon, and piano (1929)
(b. Dinant, 12 February 1899 – d. Woluwé-Saint-Pierre, 21 February 1938)
I Pastorale. Modéré (p. 2) – Plus lent – Très lent (p. 12) – Au mouvement initial (p. 13) – Très modéré (p. 17)
II Gigue (p. 19)
III Passacaille. Lent et grave (p. 38) – Très lent (p. 46)
IV Mouvement perpétuel. Vif (p. 47) – Très vif (p. 66)
Belgium is a deeply dysfunctional country, a nation traumatized by the split between its Flemish and Walloon wings. It is also a country with many “skeletons in the closet.” One of these skeletons has recently been gradually disinterred: Albert Huybrechts, by far the most riveting figure of Belgian modernism. Huybrechts has even been honored by a website authorized by his descendents, which, if short on background information, at least contains a complete catalogue of his slender oeuvre and an overview of the commercial recordings of his music.
Huybrechts’s father died just as the boy reached maturity, and he had to assume responsibility for supporting his mother and siblings, leading a life in the shadow of success. Things did not always look this way, for in 1925 he received the Coolidge Prize for his freshly completed Sonata for Violin and Piano (it would become his most frequently performed work) and, five days later, the first prize at the Ojay Festival for his First String Quartet. Lasting success was just within his reach, only to slip immediately from his grasp. Undaunted, he used the always scant time at his disposal to continue composing, generally chamber music of exquisite refinement, but also orchestral works, songs, and a theater score for Aeschylus’s Agamemnon which, apart from the prelude, has vanished. No sooner had he finally been appointed a professor at Brussels Conservatory than he died of kidney failure.
The son of an orchestral cellist, Huybrechts trained to become an oboist (which surely goes some way to explain his great predilection for the woodwinds) and won first prize at the Conservatory at the age of sixteen for his instrumental prowess. He was taught composition by Joseph Jongen (1873-1953), Belgium’s highly acclaimed successor to César Franck, and went on to acquire a solid mastery of his craft. His early works reflect this sphere of influence, to which was added an obvious admixture of Debussy. …
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