Initially, Belgian composer Marcel Poot wasn’t particularly interested in music. And that’s what makes his symphonies so interesting. Poot’s father, director of the Royal Flemish Theater, pressured his son into music.
Marcel first failed as a clarinetist, then became a reluctant piano student. “The town organist taught me scales and the Czerny exercises. This did not amuse me at all,” Poot later wrote.
His father enrolled him in the Brussels Conservatory. Poot was admitted the second time he applied. Something must have clicked. After graduation, he became part of Les Synthétistes. It was the Belgian answer to France’s Les Six.
From then on, Poot moved from strength to strength. His compositions were performed both in Belgium and other countries. He founded the Union of Belgian Composers and taught at the Brussels Conservatory.
But he always seemed to view classical music slightly askance. His seven symphonies have an irreverent character to them. Poot mixes traditional post-Romantic harmonies with Stravinsky-like rhythms. Jazz motifs appear from time to time. And on occasion, Poot creates proto-show tunes.
The seven symphonies are presented here in order, and that’s a good way to first experience them. Symphony No. 7, written in 1982, isn’t quite as cheeky as Symphony No. 1 from 1929.
Poot’s style became more sophisticated over time. And while the mix of influences became smoother, it never disappeared. Symphony 7 is mostly a serious work, but Poot manages a few winks at the listener.
This was a massive recording project, involving four orchestras and four conductors. Frédéric Devreese and the Moscow Smphony Orchestra perform symphonies nos. 3, 6, and 7. Naxos had released these recordings before, and it’s good to have them back in print. Devreese studied composition with Marcel Poot, and his insightful interpretations were most welcome.
It’s a pleasure to have all Poot’s symphonies available. Now we can only hope this lays the foundation for more of his music to be recorded!
Marcel Poot: Symphonies Nos. 1-7
Antwerp Philharmonic; Léonce Gras, conductor
BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra; Hans Rotman, conductor
Moscow Symphony Orchestra; Frédéric Devreese, conductor
Belgian National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Frans André, conductor
Naxos 8574292-93 2 CD Set