CeBeDeM

CeBeDeM

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ALBERT, Karel

Karel ALBERT was born in Antwerp on 16 April 1901. He studied at the Royal Flemish Music Conservatory in his native city, and subsequently with Marinus De Jong. In 1929 he took a position as a music teacher at the State High School in Antwerp. In 1933 he became the secretary of the music department of the former N.I.R. (Belgian National Broadcasting Service). In 1936 he was appointed head of the department and was promoted to assistant-director three years later. After an interruption during the Second World War, Albert continued to work at the N.I.R until 1961, when he retired at the age of 60. In retirement he was the music critic for the weekly publication, Het Toneel, until 1970. He had in fact worked as a critic throughout his life, writing for several publications, including Kunst, Vlaamse Arbeid, and Music . A selection of his articles were published as the book, Over muziek gesproken in 1982. Karel Albert died in 1987 in Liedekerke (Belgium). Together with August L. Baeyens and Willem Pelemans, Albert promoted modern music in Flanders in the years after the First World War. These innovators organised a concert consisting mainly of their own new compositions in Brussels as early as 1922. This initiative was followed up by several smaller concerts in Antwerp and Brussels. Karel Albert's friend and colleague, August Baeyens subsequently founded a chamber music ensemble in Antwerp in 1927 dedicated to the advancement of modern Flemish music. In this period, Albert went under the pseudonym of K. Victors. His earliest successes, which established his reputation as a composer, were compositions for the theatre written between 1924 and 1932 for the Vlaamse Volkstoneel and the avant-garde Théâtre du Marais in Brussels. Through this functional music he played a major role in the gradual acceptance of modern music by a broader audience. His music for the theatre was firmly rooted in the renewal of the theatre which was taking place in Flanders at the time. In 1947 he produced a book for the general public on music history from antiquity to Beethoven, which made use of phonographic recordings.

WORKS
Karel Albert was, in his own words, 'a composer who was always searching', with the result that he changed direction a number of times. He received his basic training in composition mainly from Marinus De Jong, who passed on to him a thematic-motivic approach. As outlined above, Albert was among the first modernists in Belgium, along with Baeyens and Pelemans. For these composers, structure and expressive tension were more important than romantic content and folk melodies as then preached by the heirs to Benoit. Karel Albert was caught up in the full flight of expressionism when he produced his more than 20 scores of music for the theatre. His talent for the dramatic led him to create music that was part of the action on stage and, in particular, offered the actors rhythmic support. A few of the most important works in this group are Lucifer ,Adam in ballingschap ,Tijl ,Les marrons du feu ,De Mariaboodschap and Marieken van Niemeghen . The music for this last work created such a furore at the time that the company, the Volkstoneel, subsequently included music in all its productions. Albert himself labelled this expressionist period as 'constructivist', calling it 'music that strived to be pure music, lines that represent nothing more or less than a plastic value'. In order to realise this 'community art' he wrote 'constructions'. As early as 1922, Albert composed a construction for choir, entitled Hymne .

The constructivist period may, however, best be situated in the years from 1926 to 1937, as exemplified by such works as 6/4 Construction for piano (1926), 2/4 Construction (1930 ), 3/4 Construction (1930), and a 4/4 Construction . The composer considered the chief work of his 'musical constructivism' to be Het land. Symfonische konstructie (1937), an abstract construction which rejects any form of individual emotion. Albert does not in fact extend this new aesthetic ideal to the level of rhythmic organisation or instrumentation. Equally, his harmonic language hardly conflicts with tradition. A static harmony is achieved through the use of ostinato and through a style that draws on the figured chorale. The true constructivist concept realised in Het land is the projection of a broken chord over the musical time span of the composition, creating the impression of a gradual arpeggiation throughout the whole work, treated as a cantus firmus. Albert would continue to write constructivist works after 1937, namely the Drie constructies voor snaren written in 1959. His best known work, Het beestenspel (1933), heralded a new phase in the composer's career. The change in style evident here points to a simplification, a tendency that would become clearly established during the war years of 1940-44. During this period, Karel Albert harked back to a 'mature' classicism, with a finer balance between form and content. Het beestenspel is a piano suite composed in 1932, and arranged for orchestra in 1933. In each of the nine movements of this suite an animal performs its 'trick'. The text is light-hearted, containing many comical passages, but the composer is able to avoid musical clichés. The result cannot be called highly innovative but there is some combining of different harmonic functions in one chord, as well as the use of bitonality at the end of the circus music heard at the beginning and at the conclusion. This unpretentious work can be seen as a critique of the stilted, overly serious Late-Romantic musical tradition with which he desired to make a clean break.

With the onset of the Second World War, Karel Albert's quest for a simplified style saw its highpoint in his Symphonies no. 1 in E major (1941), no. 2 in G major (1943) and no. 3 in B major (1945), as well as his ballet, De toverlantaarn (1946). He called his Third Symphony his 'radio symphony' since, in both aesthetic and technical terms, it was conceived for radio broadcast. Technically, this symphony is geared to the acoustics of a normal living room, with a scoring for a limited orchestra and a structure that is classical and transparent, effects he achieves by treating each instrument as a soloist. Aesthetically, he practices the art of the intimate. The work is not conceived for a large audience in a concert hall, but for a single listener sitting by a radio. In 1950 came the opera buffa, Europa ontvoerd . After this work, Albert moved on from classicism, once again entering a more 'experimental' period. Piano works and songs were the first indications of this change. A characteristic work of this period was the ballet, Tornoo i (1953). Although the composer and the critics would subsequently see this work as an expressionist composition, serious issue can be taken with this description, as Tornooi is a highly narrative ballet in the 19 th -century musical tradition.

Another work from this period is the Quintet for flute, oboe and string trio (1954). In the second movement of this work, Karel Albert explores the boundary between atonality and dodecaphony. Once again, true polyphony gives way to ostinatos or figured melodies. Of particular interest are the interaction of the oboe and the flute, and the concluding pianissimo chord at the end of the second movement. A further step towards dodecaphony led to the following works: Theme and Variations for piano (1955), Third Sonata for piano (1956), Bloeiende lotus (1956) and De nacht voor orkest (1956), a work entirely conceived on a twelve-tone row. Albert subsequently became a confirmed adherent of dodecaphony in its purest form, as seen in his Suite for orchestra (1958), along with other chamber music and songs. In 1962 he composed a suite for baritone and orchestra, In den beginne was het woord , in which he departed from the serial technique.

After several works (including the 1963 Quartet for brass instruments) in which the composer applied Messiaen's modes, Albert combined several styles in his Symphony no. 4. This may be considered his last important work, exhibiting the musical personality of a composer of great stylistic diversity.

SELECTIVE LIST OF WORKS
- Orchestra: Wilde jacht (1933), Humoresque (1936), Het land (1937), First symphony (1941),
Second symphony (1943), Third symphony (1945), De nacht (1956), Suite for orchestra (1958), Drie constructies for strings (1959), In den beginne was het woord (1962), Fourth symphony (1966), Synfonietta (1968)
- Chamber music: String quartet nr.1 (1929), Trio for hobo, clarinet and bassoon (1930),
Chamber symphony (1932), Quintet for flute, hobo and string trio (1954), Quartet for brass (1964)
- Ballet: De toverlantaarn (1942), Tornooi (1953)
- Opera Buffa: Europa ontvoerd (1950)
- Lieder: Het lied van de smid (1933), De heide roept (1960), Femme en noir (1960), Fidelité en chambre (1960)
- Music for theater: Marieken van Niemeghen (1924), Tijl (1925), Les marrons du feu (1925), Lucifer (1926), Adam in ballingschap (1927), De Mariaboodschap (1927)
- Piano music: Het beestenspel (1932), Thema met variaties voor piano (1955), Derde sonate voor piano (1956), Bloeiende lotus (1956)

SELECTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY
- ALBERT, K., art. Karel Albert, in Muzikale ommegang, ed. dr. G. VAN RAVENZWAAIJ, Amsterdam, 1948, p. 39-42.
- ALBERT, K., Over muziek gesproken... Selection from the articles and essays published during the last sixty years by Karel Albert, Antwerp, 1982, 230 p.
- DELAERE, M., Pioniers van de Nieuwe Muziek 1920-1950, in Nieuwe Muziek in Vlaanderen, ed. dr. M. DELAERE, Y. KNOCKAERT and H. SABBE, Brugge, 1998,
p. 5-34.
- MERTENS, C., Hedendaagse muziek in België, Brussel, 1967, p. 10-12, 30-31.
- MERTENS, C., Karel Albert 75 jaar, in Gamina: bi-mensual for music and discs, 3, 1976, p.128-130.
- ROBIJNS, J., art. Albert, Karel, in Algemene muziekencyclopedie, ed. dr. J. ROBIJNS en M. ZIJLSTRA, dl.1, Amsterdam, 1979, p. 59.

[© 2001 Jeroen Vanacker, for MATRIX]

works

  • 6/4 Constructie, 1926
    piano 00:02:30
  • Adam in ballingschap, 1928
    theatre music 00:18:30
  • Adam in ballingschap II, 1940
    radio and tv 00:25:00
  • Advent, 1924
    theatre music 00:23:00
  • Alpejagerslied, 1937
    middle voice and piano 00:03:45
  • Anankee, 1934
    orchestra 00:03:00
  • Antigone, 1931
    theatre music 00:12:00
  • April ontplooit, 1963
    mixed choir a cappella 00:01:00
  • Arbeidersfeest, 1934
    middle voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Arbeidersfeest, 1934
    men's choir and orchestra 00:03:00
  • Avond, 1948
    piano 00:03:30
  • Begijnhof, 1951
    middle voice and piano 00:04:20
  • Bloeiende lotus, 1956
    piano 00:03:15
  • Contes de mon père l'âne
    high voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Dans, 1924
    piano 00:02:40
  • Dansende beeldekens, 1959
    orchestra 00:15:45
  • Dansfantasia, 1925
    piano 00:02:00
  • De barbier van Sevilja, 1931
    theatre music 00:21:00
  • De burger-edelman, 1927
    theatre music 00:25:45
  • De dolende soldaat, 1937
    radio and tv 00:10:00
  • De grote wereld-bioscoop, 1933
    Baritone and orchestra 00:04:40
  • De grote wereld-bioscoop, 1933
    middle voice and piano 00:04:40
  • De heide roept!, 1960
    children's choir and piano 00:11:45
  • De keuterboer, 1943
    middle voice and piano 00:05:00
  • De kikker en de koe, 1954
    children's choir and orchestra 00:02:00
  • De knecht van twee meesters, 1928
    theatre music 00:24:50
  • De lentejeugd, 1947
    middle voice and piano 00:03:00
  • De lentejeugd, 1947
    Children's choir and orchestra 00:03:00
  • De Maria boodschap, 1927
    theatre music 00:18:00
  • De Maria boodschap, 1927
    song and piano 00:18:00
  • De nacht, 1956
    symphonic orchestra 00:10:15
  • De nacht, 1924
    theatre music 00:09:00
  • De nieuwe jeugd, 1950
    Children's choir and piano 00:01:30
  • De nieuwe jeugd, 1950
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:30
  • De stad, 1931
    theatre music 00:07:00
  • De tak, 1947
    Soprano and piano 00:03:00
  • De tak, 1947
    middle voice and orchestra 00:03:00
  • De tooverlantaarn, 1942
    orchestra 00:45:00
  • De toverlantaarn: Suite, 1945
    orchestra 00:17:00
  • De verlorene, 1944
    Alto or Baritone and piano 00:04:00
  • De vrolijke dood, 1923
    theatre music 00:15:00
  • Dr. Faustus, 1929
    theatre music 00:20:30
  • Drie constructies voor piano, 1932
    piano 00:05:00
  • Drie constructies voor snaren, 1959
    string orchestra 00:12:00
  • Drie koningen - fantasia, 1944
    piano 00:00:00
  • Drie Van Ostayen - liederen, 1947
    middle voice and orchestra 00:04:40
  • Een dag uit het leven van Janneke en Mieke, 1975
    piano 00:18:30
  • Een jonge lach, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:10
  • Eenzame dronkenschap, 1948
    high voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Ei! zonne, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:30
  • Europe enlevée, 1949
    comic opera in one act 00:50:00
  • Europe enlevée, 1955
    voice and piano 00:50:00
  • Femme en noir, 1960
    middle voice and piano 00:02:00
  • Frédérique, 1969
    high voice and piano 00:04:00
  • Groeninge lied, 1939
    middle voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Halewijn, 1929
    theatre music 00:20:00
  • Hamlet, 1927
    theatre music 00:28:00
  • Heerlijke morgen, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:35
  • Het beestenspel, 1932
    piano 00:19:00
  • Het beestenspel, 1932
    orchestra 00:19:00
  • Het geuzenplein, 1973
    middle voice and piano 00:05:00
  • Het grote schouwtoneel der wereld, 1925
    theatre music 00:08:00
  • Het land, 1937
    orchestra 00:12:00
  • Het lied van den smid, 1933
    Children's choir and piano 00:02:30
  • Het lied van den smid, 1933
    middle voice and piano 00:02:30
  • Het lied van den smid, 1933
    children's choir and orchestra 00:02:30
  • Het lied van den smid, 1933
    middle voice and orchestra 00:02:30
  • Het masker, 1927
    high voice and piano 00:01:45
  • Humoreske, 1929
    orchestra 00:35:00
  • Hymne, 1923
    mixed Choir a cappella 00:05:15
  • Impulsen, 1939
    orchestra 00:08:00
  • In den beginne was het woord, 1962
    Baritone and orchestra 00:18:30
  • In den vreemde, 1935
    Soprano and piano 00:02:45
  • Jeremias, 1932
    theatre music 00:13:00
  • Jongens en meisjes, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:20
  • Kamersinfonie, 1932
    chamber orchestra 00:30:00
  • Kerstboom, 1963
    choir a cappella 00:01:30
  • Kerstlied naar oude trant, 1950
    mixed Choir and orchestra 00:05:15
  • Kerstlied naar oude trant, 1950
    middle voice and piano 00:05:15
  • Klaverblad, 1969
    piano 00:04:00
  • Kleuterliedjes, 1954
    Children's choir and piano 00:08:45
  • Koning Oedipus, 1929
    theatre music 00:17:00
  • Kwartet, 1963
    horn, 2 trumpets, trombone 00:18:15
  • Kwintet, 1963
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:22:15
  • Kwintet voor kopers, 1962
    2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba 00:14:00
  • L'adieu, 1920
    middle voice and piano 00:00:30
  • Lentekatjes, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:10
  • Lentewandeling, 1935
    chamber orchestra 00:03:30
  • Les marrons du feu, 1925
    theatre music 00:12:00
  • Les marrons du feu, 1925
    voice and piano 00:12:00
  • Leuke wijsjes, 1954
    Children's choir and piano 00:09:20
  • Liedjes uit de eenzaamheid, 1964
    high voice and piano 00:12:30
  • Lucifer, 1926
    theatre music 00:27:00
  • Lunch, 1923
    piano 00:02:30
  • Marieken van Nieumeghen [2e versie], 1928
    theatre music 00:19:00
  • Mariken van Nieumeghen [1ste versie], 1924
    theatre music 00:19:00
  • Marionetten, 1964
    piano 00:02:45
  • Mei, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:45
  • Mei, 1953
    orchestra 00:01:45
  • Melopee, 1926
    high voice and piano 00:02:45
  • Metamorfose, 1977
    piano 00:03:00
  • Mijnramp, 1933
    orchestra 00:20:00
  • Mini-symfonie, 1974
    chamber orchestra 00:21:25
  • Mister Jim, 1942
    piano 00:04:00
  • Multatuli herdacht, 1937
    radio and tv 00:18:00
  • Mysterium crucis, 1934
    theatre music 00:25:00
  • Mythos, 1932
    high voice and piano 00:02:15
  • Najaar, 1969
    high voice and piano 00:01:45
  • Nieuw leven, 1946
    high voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Notentuiltjes, 1952
    Children's choir and piano 00:10:10
  • Nuances, 1926
    theatre music 00:09:00
  • Oedipus te Colonus, 1931
    theatre music 00:19:00
  • Orphée, 1928
    theatre music 00:05:00
  • Ostinato, 1939
    piano 00:04:00
  • Pieta, 1925
    piano 00:04:00
  • Pieta, 1925
    violin and small accompanying orchestra 00:04:00
  • Prima-ballerina, 1945
    orchestra 00:03:00
  • Quatuor, 1960
    4 saxophones 00:16:00
  • Quintet, 1954
    woodwind and string quintet 00:20:00
  • Rei van engelen, 1967
    Narrator and piano 00:07:00
  • Robert, Bertrand & cie, 1929
    theatre music 00:10:00
  • Robert, Bertrand & cie, 1929
    piano 00:10:00
  • Romance van het draaiorgeltje, 1942
    piano 00:04:00
  • Sarabande, 1921
    piano 00:02:30
  • Serenade, 1921
    piano 00:02:30
  • Serenade, 1921
    oboe and piano 00:02:30
  • Simpliciae, 1924
    piano 00:03:40
  • Sinfonietta, 1969
    orchestra 00:20:30
  • Sire Halewijn, 1934
    theatre music 00:20:00
  • Sonata, 1922
    piano 00:17:00
  • Sonate nr.2 in G, 1927
    piano 00:16:30
  • Sonate voor den huiskring, 1943
    four-handed piano 00:14:35
  • Sonatine nr.1, 1924
    piano 00:05:45
  • Sonatine nr.2 in G, 1951
    piano 00:08:00
  • Sonatine nr.3, 1956
    piano 00:07:00
  • Sonatine nr.4, 1973
    piano 00:08:00
  • Sonatine nr.5, 1979
    piano 00:00:00
  • Sonatine nr.6, 1984
    piano 00:03:30
  • Strijkkwartet nr. 1 in la, 1929
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:17:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr. 2 in D, 1941
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:32:30
  • Strofen op lente en herfst, 1938
    high voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Suite, 1923
    Soprano and piano 00:05:50
  • Suite, 1958
    orchestra 00:24:00
  • Suite voor klavier, 1955
    piano 00:05:30
  • Symfonie nr.1 in E gr., 1941
    orchestra 00:33:00
  • Symfonie nr.2 in sol gr. t., 1943
    orchestra 00:38:00
  • Symfonie nr.3 in B groot, 1945
    orchestra 00:28:00
  • Symfonie nr.4, 1966
    orchestra 00:27:30
  • Terug, 1944
    Bass and piano 00:02:45
  • Tijl, 1925
    theatre music 00:30:00
  • Tijl junior, 1930
    theatre music 00:17:00
  • Tornooi, 1953
    orchestra 00:20:00
  • Trio, 1930
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:14:00
  • Triptiek, 1960
    piano 00:04:30
  • Vaders huis, 1953
    children's choir and orchestra 00:03:00
  • Van Ostayen-liederen, 1925
    middle voice and piano 00:04:40
  • Vergeet-mij-nietjes, 1946
    Children's choir and piano 00:10:35
  • Vier stukjes voor de poppenkast, 1923
    piano 00:05:40
  • Voor jonge mensen, 1952
    Children's choir and piano 00:12:55
  • Vorst, 1932
    high voice and piano 00:01:45
  • Wals, 1922
    piano 00:01:30
  • Wandelingen, 1969
    piano 00:08:00
  • Werkstuk, 1958
    viola and wind quintet 00:04:30
  • Werkstuk, 1958
    viola and piano 00:04:30
  • Wij dichters, 1946
    Bass and piano 00:03:50
  • Wij hebben geen geld, 1933
    middle voice and piano 00:01:40
  • Wij hebben geen geld, 1933
    middle voice and orchestra 00:01:40
  • Ziekentroost, 1942
    Contralto and piano 00:06:00
  • Zomermarsj, 1937
    Children's choir and piano 00:01:45
  • Zomermarsj, 1937
    children's choir and orchestra 00:01:45
  • Zonnestraaltjes, 1955
    Children's choir and piano 00:11:10
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