Wilfried Westerlinck – Kerstburlesken (Christmas Burlesques) (2015-2016)
(Leuven, 3 October 1945)
To Hugo Sledsens
Out of friendship
Wilfried Westerlinck studied at the Royal Conservatories of Brussels and Antwerp under composers such as Victor Legley, Jan Louël and August Verbesselt, as well as under composer-conductor Daniël Sternefeld. In Monte Carlo he continued studying orchestral conducting under Igor Markevitch. Between 1971 and 1983 he taught music analysis at the Royal Flemish Conservatoire of Antwerp, however, he built a career as a producer of the classical radio station of the Belgian Radio and Television (BRT). As a composer he came into the spotlight with the orchestral piece Metamorfose (1971), his series Landschappen (1977-2020) for various ensembles, three string quartets (1978-1994), three piano sonatas (1983-1986) and various solo pieces for wind instruments, such as the often performed Kijk, een basklarinet in mijn tuin! (Look, there’s a bass clarinet in my garden!) (1985) for bass clarinet, Talisman (2001) for clarinet and Meeting a Mockingbird in Texas (2009) for piccolo. In 2015 and 2018 the albums Mockingbird and Talisman were released, which included more recent works like Quattro pezzi for clarinet and harp (2007-2015), Three collages ‘Hommage to E.L.T. Mesens’ for flute and harp (2013-2014) and Suite de Montsouris for violin and guitar (2014).
Westerlinck likes to adapt his compositions for various instruments and ensembles, which makes him examine his works from all different angles. He draws his idiom from the modernism of the first half of the 20th century, paying particular attention to colour and timbre and a clear musical story.
In Kerstburlesken Westerlinck creates original arrangements of four popular Flemish Christmas carols: Er is een kindeke geboren op aard’, Maria die soude naar Betlehem gaan, Een kindeke is ons geboren and Sint-Jozef op z’n ezelken (Op enen Kerstnacht, als Sint-Jozef lag te rusten). On the idea behind this suite he writes the following:
‘During the Christmas period of 2015 I’ve heard quite a few Christmas carols and I noticed they were all so depressingly slow, like they’re about a weepy and sad drama. But it’s not about that at all. Christmas is a joyful feast for the birth of the Redeemer, which should actually require ecstatic dancing. So allow me to look at it through cheerful and burlesque glasses.
Every child that is born brings joy to its family, and there is a reason to celebrate, to dance, albeit in 5/8. Allow me to use a twelve-note series which was also used in my Metamorfose for orchestra when Maria goes to Bethlehem, or a gentle, rocking motif. And what is so wrong about a short jazzy tone which rears its donkey head when Saint Joseph shows up. In the final bars, for a brief moment, this donkey appears to be standing stock-still, he looks the other way and then concludes this composition rumbling and tumbling.
The piece is full of inside jokes and I wanted to completely disrupt the old modes by putting them in a unique and flashy harmonic dress.
The fact that I wrote the bulk of it during the sunny summer of 2016 probably contributed to it becoming a burlesque suite, which definitely does not mean to trivialise these Flemish Christmas carols.’
This piece was performed on 23 December 2016 during the Middagconcerten (afternoon concerts) in Antwerp by the violinist Nicolas Dupont and the pianist Olga Kirpicheva.
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
This score was published in collaboration with the Study Centre for Flemish Music (www.svm.be).
Read full Flemish and German preface > HERE