Het zielebladje (Soul-leaf)

Concerto for flute and sixteen soloist voices
Poems by Guido Gezelle, Karel van de Woestijne and Karel van de Oever
Duration : 24’
Commission of Nederlands Kamerkoor
First performance on march 16th 2010 at the Muziekgebow of Amsterdam by Noor Kamerbeek and the Nederlands Kamerkoor, dir. Klass Stock

“De nachtegale” (extr) :

“De hazel-noot” :

“Het bladje op het water” (extr):

1 – De nachtegale (Preludio)
- Intermezzo 1
2 – De hazel-noot (Fuga)
- Intermezzo 2
3 – De krekel (Larghetto scherzando)
- Intermezzo 3
4 – Het bladje op het water (Finale)

A work destined for singers from the Netherlands : what a wonderful occasion for a composer to discover the hidden treasures of a language and its poets !
Not least, when these poets seek to pay particular attention to the sonority of the words, as is the case of this 19th century Flemish monk Guido Gezelle who opens and closes the cycle : neologism and alliteration abound in poetry which appears simplistic – almost naive.
The two central poems by Woestine and Oever were written a little later – in the first quarter of the 20th century – but the spiritual message is shrouded in similar fashion through the breaking up of the verbal sonorities.

Whatever, it is the flute which is the unifying element in these 4 texts, moreover it is the link in the 3 intermezzi between the different poems.

First, it is the flute which is the « Nightingale » scarcely heard above the complex fabric of the sixteen voices covering the different sections of the orchestra in this soft, prolonged nostalgic lament.

It is the flute which is the pallid worm which gnaws away at the helpless hazel nut, hollowing it out with a grand array of sound effects (whispers, multiphonics, jangling of keys….) amidst an extremely virtuoso vocal counterpoint.

It is the flute which is the cricket chirruping, when it « strikes its small silver cymbals in the cemetery’s grass » and quietly watches the polyphonic clouds of the sung, spoken or whispered voices pass by.

And last of all, it is the flute which is the leaf (« bladje ») which whirls in the water, to blend with it and proves to be the mirror of the soul(« ziele ») where the hypnotic force in the frenetic rythm of this poem is not unlike the budhist techniques from the Mantra.

The Nederlands Kamerkoor commissioned this work which is dedicated to its director Leo Samama and the flautist Noor Kamerbeek who played the solo section during the first performance on 16th March 2010 in Amsterdam.

My warm thanks to Madam Assié, a university lecturer from the Netherlands for her precious advice.

Patrick Burgan

To get the score, send an email to the association Alcmène : Contact 

Full listening: “De nachtegale”