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Medieval Scenes

Eliot Lawson

The Chapel of Mary-Magdalena

“Medieval Scenes”, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.

Part I: “Maestoso”. Sharp and evocative trumpet calls open the first part of the work and announce its heroic character. In spite of their diversity the following passages never degenerate into wild confusion. Sonorous, gracefully spun-out phrases alternate with passages slashing like gales. Contrary to custom the cadenza is not placed at the end of the first part. Its plaintive notes recur in the orchestration, first mingling in the caress of the violins, then absorbed by the woodwinds, to dissolve finally in the forte of the strings. A short, fiery dialogue leads piano and orchestra to the radiant conclusion.

The beginning of the second part “Andantino pastorale” is a tender tale, a melodious description of pastoral life, of idyllic scenes and charming legends. Notwithstanding its determined formal style one recognizes the strain of an old children’s song : “ô bon Saint Nicolas, patron des écoliers”… The fate strikes. This theme, expressed by threatening horns, is repeated three times going crescendo in spite of the beseeching incantations of the piano, which at first yields to the orchestra, but, fighting gamely, regains the upper hand ; the tocsin rings ; from a mute start the kettle-drums come to a crash, then suddenly the bassoons take over in short mocking bursts, introducing the sarcastic and fantastic third part “Alla burlesca“.

Now all romanticism has vanished. Harshly, sounds clash. Strokes and chords display anxiety, dismay fear of sorcery. Yet three times – and here again the inexplicable but so often recurring preference of the composer for the number three – scenes filled with suppressed anxiety are interrupted by joyful hymns, played first by the piano, then by the orchestra and then by both, thus leading to the final hymn. After a rumbling motive – a series of octaves in martellato – the final chords triumphantly recall the initial theme of the first part.

Juliane Castro
Translated by Arthur Pauwels


Concerto for Violin and Orchestra: “The Chapel of Mary-Magdalena extra muros”

During the convalescence after a delicate eye operation in 1946 Emmanuel Durlet imagined the sketches and the first outlines of his violin concerto, “The Chapel of Mary-Magdalena extra muros”. The work was completed in 1949 and dedicated to the Greek violinist Sophie Piménidès, the assistant-mistress of the famous Belgian violinist and pedagogue Matthieu Crickboom. She studied the work together with Durlet but a public performance was never realized. The creation of the concerto finally took place in Antwerp on the 6th of November 1993, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the composer. The violinist Jan Van Weyenberg was accompanied by the “Koninklijk Filharmonisch Orkest van Vlaanderen”, conducted by Kenneth Montgomery.

The first two parts are melodious and bear witness of great inspiration. Part three is characterized by the enormous virtuosity required from the performer. Later on Durlet made a version for violin and organ named “Myrrh and Incense”. The fingerings and bowing marks for the soloist are put in by the great Belgian violinist Franz Wigy. When Durlet was asked what was the meaning of the title “The Chapel of Mary-Magdalena extra muros” he always smiled. “It is an evocation” he said. “When I was young there was a little chapel in the southern part of Antwerp, outside the walls of the city. This chapel was dedicated to Mary-Magdalena, the biblical personage. The chapel does not exist anymore, it was pulled down. It was a meeting place for young people in love”. With its violin concerto Emmanuel Durlet wanted to perpetuate the disappeared chapel.

Joe de Troetsel
Translation: Andrea Durlet

Emmanuel Durlet’s violin concerto “The Chapel of Mary-Magdalena Extra Muros” was composed between 1946 and 1949. It is a concerto in three movements and it is a posthumous work.

The first movement of the concerto “Moderato” was written in rhapsodic form. Soloist and orchestra alternate in playing the various themes that will be heard throughout the work. The themes Durlet writes are beautifully contrastive, at any rate, as some have a playful and virtuoso character, whereas others have a solemn and sublime spirit. Needless to say, in this longer movement the soloist can show his musicianship in an imposing cadenza. In the second movement of the concerto “Andante sostenuto”, it is as if we enter the chapel mentioned the title, and find ourselves between his walls. A heartfelt prayer of exquisite melodies rises up, and the subtle interplay between the solo violin and the wind instruments creates the intimate atmosphere of chamber music. The third movement of the concerto “Allegro vivace”, in contrast, sounds, at times, like a diabolic dance through – among other things – the repeated use of tritones. When at the apex of the piece the trumpet resumes the opening theme of the first movement, the heavens open and this beautiful concerto is given a gracious and stately ending.

Studying and recording this concerto has become a wonderful project. The young members of the orchestra worked very hard to master its complex score. In the beginning, the orchestra needed to find the right sound, and the fragmentation that characterizes the orchestration of this concerto proved extra challenging in the search for a perfect performance. Yet after a number of successful concerts and an intense weekend of recording we are very happy with the result!

We hope to share with many listeners the love for this beautiful music that we discovered and rediscovered. We also sincerely hope that this concerto, a truly worthy addition to the extensive repertoire for the violin and orchestra, will be given a new lease of life through this recording.

Hans Casteleyn,
Conductor of the “Euregio Youth Orchestra”.
Translation : Marleen Cré


Eliot Lawson resume

Eliot Lawson, born in Brussels is of Belgian and Luso-American nationality. He starts playing violin in 1985.

In 1989 he was selected by Sir Yehudi Menuhin to persue his studies in London. However he continued his studies in Belgium with Leon .Souroujon, J. Van Aken and I. Oistrakh. Subsequently completing them in Holland with I. Grubert, J.J. Kantorow and H. Krebbers. And In Italy with N. Shkolnikova. He is the titular holder of a master’s degree in music, awarded “with greatest distinction” by the Royal Conservatoire of Brussels. In the Conservatoire of Rotterdam he obtains his “Bachelor” and his “Master’s degree” both with greatest distinction, the “Artist Diploma” of the Indiana University in Bloomington and a Soloist’s Diploma from the Fiesole Scuola di Musica in Italy.

Eliot Lawson is laureate and finalist of several national and international competitions : De Bériot, Young Soloist’s, Pro Civitate, Vieuxtemps-Competition, Premio Vittorio Gui, Brahms-Competition, International Mozart-Competition, Maasmond, Lantier, Herman Krebbers and the Competition Tibor Varga. He has given many concerts in Belgium, the Netherlands, in Luxemburg, in France, in Germany, in England, in Italy, in Turkey, in Brazil, in China and in the United States. He has appeared as soloist with orchestras such as the Belgian National Orchestra, the Euregio Youth Orchestra, the Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia, the Symphony Orchestra of Flanders, the Bonn Symphony Orchestra, the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Gulbelkian Foundation, the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, the Porto Symphony Orchestra, the Corvilha Youth Orchestra, the Baskent/Turkey Chamber Orchestra and the Middle Tennessee Symphony Orchestra.

As a chamber musician, Eliot Lawson forms a regular duo with the pianist Diane Andersen, also with the cellist David Cohen and his sister, the pianist Jill Lawson. He teaches violin (as the assistant of Ilya Grubert) in the Conservatoire of Amsterdam, the Royal Conservatoire of Mons/Belgium, the Scuola di Musica Santa Cecilia-Portogruaro/Italy (assistant), the University of Minho in Braga/Portugal and the Kunsthumaniora van Antwerpen. He is regularly invited to give master classes in Belgium,Luxemburg, France, Italy, Portugal, Brazil and the United States. Eliot Lawson recorded CD’s for the labels Brilliant Classics, Fuga Libera, Phaedra and Cypres followed by laudable critics in Diapason, the Strad, Le Soir….

The concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Emmanuel Durlet has been edited on CD in 2014. Eliot Lawson is accompanied by the Euregio Youth Orchestra, conducted by Hans Casteleyn.

Translation: Marleen Cré