In ballingschap, symphonic poem (first print)
Vocht, Lodewijk de
Lodewijk De Vocht – In Exile (1914)
(Antwerp, 21 September 1887 – ’s Gravenwezel, 27 March 1977)
This piece is a resounding account of the Great War, written by a composer who himself had to flee the violence of the war. After the heavy bombings that struck Antwerp on the evening of 7 October 1914, Lodewijk De Vocht fled to the Netherlands, together with many thousands of other inhabitants of the city. By that time, his wife and son had already been sent away to a safer place. On the afternoon of 8 October he arrived in Hilversum. The day after, De Gooische Post published an interview with De Vocht in which he talks about fleeing: ‘It was an endless procession of boundless misery.’
During their exile, the De Vocht family stayed in Rotterdam, where De Vocht tried to have his compositions performed in the Netherlands. On 25 November 1914 in Utrecht and the day after in Rotterdam, De Vocht had the opportunity to conduct the Utrechts Stedelijk Orkest in three of his own compositions: the early symphonic poems Avondschemering (Evening Twilight) and Lentemorgen (Spring Morning), and the recently composed Bede voor mijn vaderland (Prayer for my Home Country), which he would later rename In ballingschap (In Exile). The rest of the programme, which he concluded with Lodewijk Mortelmans’s Mythe der lente (Myth of Spring), was conducted by Wouter Hutschenruyter, the principal conductor of the Utrechts Stedelijk Orkest.
De Vocht composed In Exile shortly after his arrival in the Netherlands in a few weeks’ time. The score for the orchestra was not finished until the last night before the first rehearsal. De Vocht wrote programme notes, both in Dutch and in French: ‘The song of an entire people in exile was the reason for this piece. The opening melody, soberly constructed as a choral, is a prayer, an urge of the soul, alternating with a theme that expresses bitter sorrow. This sorrow evolves and changes into despair or turns into a state of exalted acceptance. When the opening melody is reprised at the end, it is like the entire nation is yearning for liberation.’
The newspaper De Maasbode published this raving review about the performance in Rotterdam: ‘The crowning glory had to be Prayer for my Home Country, a piece that was created in these dire times. Or could the deep suffering of our Southern neighbours have been painted in sounds by anyone else than a descendant of that beautiful Belgium? No trivial craftsman stuff mixed with powerless impressionism, no pictorial sound art. No, all the suffering, the weeping misery, the bleak sounds of lament, in which the most bitter cries of despair are sung, that is what De Vocht so naturally conjures up before you. You can hear the wailing so to speak, the groaning, the sighs of sorrow, that were let out by so many of us in those days…
But there is a ray of sunshine as well! It cannot just remain incessant weeping. And eventhough the laments return repeatedly, a ray of light full of faith breaks through every time. Is it surprising that there was no escaping the powerful enchantment of music? Particularly because the orchestra abundantly provided the melodic beauty, the harmonic and rhythmic grace. The densely packed Doelenzaal had already fallen for De Vocht’s talent after the first two pieces, but after the “Prayer”, this became spectacularly clear. And even the entire orchestra joined in the enthusiastic tribute. But the composer, in his turn, gave credit where credit was due.’
This symphonic poem was later also performed at various occasions. The Vlaams Radio Orkest conducted by Jan Latham König made a recording which was released in 2004 on the album Flemish Connection IV (Et’cetera). The duration of this recording is 12’12”.
This new edition was created by Leen Uytterschaut and Piet Stryckers and is based on the autograph
score of the piece that is housed in the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp:
(B-Ac MS 175.388)
autograph in pencil, including numerous corrections in pencil and red ink
(B-Ac MS 175.346)
autograph in ink
– bars 113, cello, 7th note a: sic. The cello part bars 99-115 was originally written in eighth notes, but afterwards in the composition score it was changed into sixteenth notes and written like that in the conductor score. Both versions give a here.
– bars 217-219 of the bassoon are one bar too early in the conductor score, but correct in the composition score.
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
This score was published in collaboration with the Study Centre for Flemish Music (www.svm.be). Many thanks to the Lodewijk De Vocht Foundation.
Read full Flemish preface > HERE