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WESTERLINCK, Wilfried

Wilfried WESTERLINCK was born in Leuven on 3 October 1945. He studied oboe and harmony at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels with Louis van Deyck and Victor Legley respectively, complementing this with lessons in orchestral conducting (Daniël Sternefeld), music analysis and studies in form (August Verbesselt) at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp. From 1970 to 1983, he remained at this institution as a teacher of analysis. Westerlinck also took a course in orchestral conducting with Igor Markevich in Monte Carlo. From 1968, he was mainly active with the VRT (Flemish Radio and Television), where he was responsible for the production and broadcast of chamber and orchestral music until the beginning of 2001. In the 1990s, he was a leading figure behind such radio events as The Night of Radio 3 and Radio 3 in the City. A number of his compositions have received prizes, including Metamorfose (Tenuto Prize, 1972) and Landschappen I (prize from the Province of Antwerp, 1977). In 1985 Westerlinck received the Jef Van Hoof Prize for a song cycle on texts by Bertus Aafjes and the Eugène Baie Prize for his complete oeuvre.

WORK REVIEW
That there is not necessarily a correlation between the size of a composer's oeuvre and its quality is a fact sufficiently proven by music history. Westerlinck is among those composers who, despite a limited output, have revealed exceptional ability. That was evident early on in Metamorfose for orchestra (1971). The work sets out from a twelve-tone row. The row functions here not as a totality, but rather as a guideline from which free segments could be selected. Thus at the beginning the flute presents the first seven notes in the row, after which the order of these same notes is repeatedly permutated. This leads to a certain degree of melodic and harmonic stasis.
This transformation and development of a limited amount of basic material (a motif, a series, a chord) has remained a constant in Westerlinck's work. In this sense, the title Metamorfose is emblematic of his complete oeuvre.
Landschappen III-V (respectively 1980, 1981, 1983), for example, all open with a bi-tonal chord. The symmetrical construction of these chords offers many constructive possibilities for the development process - possibilities of which the composer takes full advantage. Cell development is also a central feature of the three string quartets. After the opening chord of the Second String Quartet (1987), a motif appears, which is first treated sequentially, then extended and finally split up into different components (each of which independently undergoes another development). The same procedure can be seen in the Third String Quartet (1994). The two-note motif in the first bar returns in a varied form already in the second bar. Bars 3 and 4 in turn are variations on bar 2, and so on.
What distinguishes Westerlinck from other composers who apply such procedures (Beethoven, Brahms, Schönberg) is the striking absence of counterpoint. This brings us to a second constant in Westerlinck's music. A complex contrapuntal development would only hinder the free unfolding of the lyrical phrase. This is certainly the case when in the course of the 1980s, percussive rhythm was obliged to yield more and more territory to cantabile voice leading (as in Canto II for cello solo, or the horn part in Landschappen I). The carefully arranged chords are thus mainly in the service of the self-unfolding melody line, serving mainly to add colour.
For this harmonic material, the composer draws on repertoire from the first half of the 20th century: atonal chords (sometimes chromatic clusters, as at the beginning of the second movement of the String Quartet No. 2), bitonal chords (Landscape cycle), “major-minor” chords, but often also hidden, tonal triads (Preludio per una danza antica for piano four hands).

The attention to colour and timbre is further expressed in the instrumentation. Here Westerlinck has never allowed himself to be seduced by unconventional playing techniques. In Landschappen I-IV, the timbre possibilities of the various chamber-music scorings are subtly explored. The “natural” sonority of the instrument (or ensemble) is given priority over innovation and experimentation. This is equally evident in more recent works such as Talisman for clarinet solo (2001).

Another characteristic in Westerlinck's work, unnoticed until now, is his recycling of his own material. In works with the same title (such as Canto I and Canto III), this may come as no surprise. More surprising perhaps are references such as: the sections from the Epigrammen that surface in the Third String Quartet and in Pierrot; the concluding motif of Landschappen I that serves as a basic motif in Maclou; the descending progression of the complete chords on e, b, g, c-sharp, previously used in a youthful work, since destroyed, but which also appears in Landschappen I, Bagatellen and Three Choral Fanfares.

Despite the fact that he makes use of a very modern musical language and technique in a number of works (for example, serial techniques in Elegie van de Zee en van de Liefde; the aleatoric elements in the middle movement of Metamorfose and in Landschappen I; the extremely disjointed melodic progression of the trombone in "S"), he is far removed from the avant-gardisme of some others of his generation. His treatment of the musical material is in fact strongly rooted in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. And yet Wilfried Westerlinck is not a postmodernist. Whereas the champions of this movement invariably call into question the musical work of art through the use of all manner of ambiguities, Westerlinck remains faithful to the concept of an art without masks or pitfalls.

LIST OF WORKS
- Orchestra: Metamorfose (1971); Elegie van de Zee en van de Liefde (1975)
- Chamber music: Epigrammen (1968); Luchtige Etuden voor een Zomerwerk (1970); Canto I-III (1976-482); Aquarel nr. 1 and 2 (1977; 1991); Landschappen I-V (1977-83); Strijkkwartet nr. 1, 2 and 3 (1978-94); "S" (1972; addition of tape in 1980); Pierrot (1999); Talisman (2001); Canzone Bucolico for ballet, reciter, 2 flutes and percussion (2001); Pessoa-aubade (2003); Berceuse van Tanchelijn (2002), Kakimori Bunko for reciter, english horn or bassett horn, bass clarinet and piano (2004); Carillon no. 3 for large wind ensemble, piano and percussion (2005)
- Piano: Four Bagatelles (1967-78); Sonata nr. 1, 2 and 3 (1983-86); Preludio per una danza antica (1985); Review (1970-91)
- Lieder: Drie liederen (1964); Zes liederen (1970); Drie Impromptu's met Epiloog (1985); Proloog, gevolgd door vier kleine mysteries (1993); Ave Maria for 4 women's voices (2002)
- Carillon: Triptiek (2001) 

BIBLIOGRAPHY
- M. DELAERE, Aftasten van de Muzikale Horizon. De landschappen I-V van Wilfried Westerlinck, programmaboek festival I Fiamminghi in Campo, 22, 23 en 24 februari 1995, p. 15-21
- M. DELAERE, art. Tussen Wellust en Weemoed, in Muziek en Woord, 21/2, 1995, p. 5
- Y. KNOCKAERT, De modernisten, Generatie 1940-'50, in Nieuwe Muziek in Vlaanderen, uitg. dr M. DELAERE, Y. KNOCKAERT en H. SABBE, Brugge, 1998, p. 122-123
- H. SLEDSENS, art. Van Heinde en Verre, in Muziek en Woord, 27/1, 2001, p. 20

DISCOGRAPHY
- Metamorfose, Cultura LP/5073-N2
- Twee kleine feestelijke stukken, R. Gailly CD/88.903
- Strijkkwartet nr 1, Phaedra CD/ JF-IC-02
- Poëma, J.M.Vlaanderen CD/JM 5539 A
- Van Heinde en Verre, Phaedra CD/292.005
- Landschappen IV, MUSIC FOR HARP, FLUTE, VIOLIN, VIOLA AND CELLO (Arpae Ensemble), Phaedra (In Flanders' Fields, vol. 12) 92012
- Preludio per una danza antico, Eufoda 1244
- Pierrot, LOOK, A BASS CLARINET IN MY GARDEN! (Trio Classicum; Moscow Chamber Soloists; basklarinet: Jan Guns, marimba, klokkespel en vibrafoon: Rita Rommes), Phaedra (In Flanders' Fields, vol. 20) 92020
- S, Phaedra CD/92023
- Carillon I – CD Radio 3/ R3 98009
- Landschappen II, Phaedra CD/92038
- Kijk, een basklarinet in mijn tuin!, Phaedra CD/92043
 

[© 2001 Bart Put, voor MATRIX ; © 2005 Klaas Coulembier, voor MATRIX (update)]

works

  • "S", 1972
    trombone solo and tape 00:14:31
  • Als in een zwijgend laken, 1998
    ballet, Narrator and four-handed piano 00:16:40
  • Aquarelle nr.1, 1977
    flute 00:05:17
  • Aquarelle nr.2, 1991
    flute 00:00:00
  • Aria, 2010
    violin and cello 00:04:00
  • Bicinium, 1970
    viola and cello 00:00:00
  • Canto I, 1976
    guitar 00:05:30
  • Canto II, 1982
    cello 00:08:00
  • Canto III, 1982
    harp 00:05:30
  • Canzone bucolico, 2001
    2 flutes and percussion 00:00:00
  • Carillon II, 1981
    3 trumpets, 4 horns and 3 trombones 00:04:00
  • De gesloten kamer, 1985
    Tenor and piano 00:06:20
  • Drie impromptu's met epiloog, 1986
    Tenor and piano 00:15:00
  • Drie koraal-fanfares, 1983
    2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba 00:04:40
  • Elegie van de zee en van de liefde, 1975
    orchestra 00:07:30
  • Epigrammen, 1968
    violin, viola and cello 00:04:30
  • Evening song, 1987
    oboe 00:02:20
  • Facing the Kasuga-Shrine in Nara, 1997
    basset horn and percussion (1 performer) 00:11:00
  • Fantasia-Sonata, 1986
    piano 00:09:30
  • From far and near, 1990
    bass clarinet and marimba 00:15:00
  • Gisekin Rapsodie, 2003
    four-handed piano 00:13:30
  • Intermezzi di Salvareggio, 1996
    tenor recorder 00:09:20
  • Kijk, een basklarinet in mijn tuin!, 1985
    bass clarinet 00:07:30
  • Kleine wals, 1983
    piano 00:03:00
  • Landschappen I, 1977
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:09:00
  • Landschappen II, 1979
    string orchestra 00:12:00
  • Landschappen III, 1980
    2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba 00:08:00
  • Landschappen IV, 1981
    flute, harp and string trio 00:10:00
  • Landschappen V, 1983
    trumpet and 12 solo strings 00:08:20
  • Landschappen VI, 2008
    string quartet 00:00:00
  • Maclou, 1975
    horn 00:00:00
  • Metamorfose, 1971
    large orchestra 00:11:02
  • Nocturne, 1974
    Mezzo-Soprano, oboe and 12 strings 00:11:00
  • Pierrot, 1999
    clarinet, basset horn and bass clarinet 00:00:00
  • Poëma, 1976
    orchestra 00:07:00
  • Preludio per una danza antica, 1985
    four-handed piano 00:07:10
  • Proloog, gevolgd door vier kleine mysteries, 1993
    Tenor and piano 00:00:00
  • Review, 1970
    2 pianos 00:22:00
  • Scarpette d'Italia, 1992
    oboe, oboe d'amore, cor anglais and guitar 00:00:00
  • Sonate nr.1, 1983
    piano 00:17:00
  • Sonate nr.2, 1985
    piano 00:13:00
  • Strijkkwartet nr.1, 1978
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:15:24
  • Strijkkwartet nr.2, 1987
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:16:40
  • Strijkkwartet nr.3, 1994
    2 violins, viola and cello 00:20:30
  • Suite, 1964
    harpsichord 00:00:00
  • Talisman, 2000
    clarinet in B flat 00:10:20
  • Thema, 1997
    organ 00:00:00
  • Triptiek, 2001
    chime bells 00:00:00
  • Twee kleine feestelijke stukken, 1986
    chime-bells 00:05:45
  • Variaties op een thema van Paganini, 1985
    piano 00:18:00
  • Vier bagatellen, 1967
    piano 00:13:00
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