Robert Herberigs – Anthony and Cleopatra – Belgian National Radio Symphony – Daniel Sternefeld, Cond. – 1948 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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The music of Robert Herberigs this weekend. Probably a name which may not ring many bells, but was a very popular composer as well as painter and musician in his native Belgium.
Robert Herberigs studied at the Ghent Royal Conservatory with Oscar Roels (solfège) and Léon Van der Haeghen (singing) amongst others. With Leo Moeremans he studied composition as a private pupil, preparing for the Prize of Rome competition. After having won a “first second prize” both in 1905 and 1907, the jury under the chairmanship of Edgar Tinel unanimously awarded him the first prize in 1909. At the audition of his winning Prize of Rome cantata De legende van Sint Herbertus, Herberigs wrote history by singing the title role himself. As a matter of fact in those years he was associated as first baritone with the Antwerp Flemish Opera. There in 1909 he created the title role in August De Boeck’s opera Reinaert de Vos.
With the grant connected to the Prize of Rome Herberigs went to Paris, Berlin and Vienna. As a composer he acquired a reputation with Cyrano de Bergerac (1912), a crossing between a horn concerto and a symphonic poem.
In the late twenties Herberigs mainly wrote sacred music, while in the early thirties he got totally captivated by neo-classicism, as is obvious in his more sober notation and his reverting to the classical form. In that vein he composed a Violin Sonata (1939), a Piano Concerto (1932) and a Clarinet Sonata (1939). Concurrently, since 1925, he divided his time between his residence in Oudenaarde and Bourg-Saint-Andéol in the Ardèche (France), where he successfully ran a fruitful apricot plantation. During the Second World War he mainly composed piano music in his castle-farm in the Rhone valley.
After this period of great productivity Herberigs’s composing came to a halt in 1945. However, instigated by a commission from his native town Ghent, he recovered his vitality and in barely nine months’ time he wrote the monumental score for the Lam Godsspel (Lamb of God Play) . Moreover, for the radio orchestra he composed a series of big orchestral works, for which he was inspired by his two important extra-musical inspiration sources, i.e. literature and painting. These compositions carry titles like Antonius en Cleopatra (1949), De vrolijke vrouwtjes van Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) (1950), De vier jaargetijden naar Brueghel (The Four Seasons after Brueghel) (1956), Vier odes aan Botticelli (Four Odes to Botticelli) (1958), his last orchestral work composed at age 80 being Romeo and Julia.
Recorded for broadcast by Belgian Radio, featuring the Belgian Radio Symphony, conducted by Daniel Sternefeld. This broadcast dates from approximately 1949, which would make it the world premier recording. I have nothing to substantiate that claim, other than the series this broadcast was part of (1948-1950). Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.
Either way, have a listen.