FanfareBernard Jacobson, January/February 2001
"When I was involved in the artistic direction of two orchestras in The Netherlands during the early 1990s, one of the most promising talents among the country's younger composers was Willem Jeths (born Amersfoort, 1959; pronounced "Yets"). These four orchestral works, which range in date from 1993 (Glenz, for violin and strings) by way of 1994 (the Piano Concerto) and 1997 (Fas/Nefas, for piano and orchestra) to 1998 (Flux/Reflux, for a moderate-sized orchestra with double winds), suggest that the promise is, if not unfailingly, still more abundantly than with some young composers being fulfilled. At his best, Jeths is an arresting and powerful voice on the contemporary scene. It is certainly possible to point to influences, most notably in a predilection for glissando effects and clouds of sonority that declare the ancestry of such 20th-century pioneers as Xenakis and Panufnik. But where in lesser hands such elements can degenerate into mere plagiarism, with Jeths it seems to me that there is always a strong personal impulse at work,so that under a surface of seemingly generic modernism- starkly incisive textures, uncompromising harmonic clashes, vehement dynamic contrasts, driving rhythms- the more profound susurration of another, often poetically evocative and mysterious world is clamouring insistently to be heard. In Flux/Reflux, the composer's own comments reveal, the animating principle (if that is not, in the context of Jeths's music prevailingly gloomy. Rather, along with clear-eyed confrontation of the dark forces, there is a bracing exhilaration in his determination to face them down- and if that is not a worthy project for an artist in our time, then I don't know what is. It is inspiring to find the North Holland Philharmonic, one of The Netherlands' remarkable plethora of regional orchestras, championing Jeths's music with excellent two-disc release. Inspiring, and at the same time sadly ironic, because the orchestra, based in Haarlem just 15 miles out of Amsterdam, yet serving a public and fulfilling an artistic mission of its own, just at this moment threatened with extinction in the latest phase of the Dutch government's belt-tightening subsidy cuts. The performances it achieves here, under the passionate leadership of conductors David Porcelijn and Thierry Fischer, joined by three excellent soloists, make the strongest possible case for the music, achieving prodigies of sustained brilliance and, at times, especially in the ravishing final minutes of Glenz, equally sustained lyrical delicacy. There are informative notes by Emile Wennekes, translated with unusual skill by Jonathan Reeder, and producer Ted Diehl has drawn sonorities of the utmost clarity and warmth from the acoustic environment of the Haarlem Concertgebouw. The only thing wrong, in my opinion, is the placement of Fas/Nefas as the opening piece on the first disc. This is a much less successful composition than its companions. Indeed, with its consistent repetition of banal repeated-note figures, it seems to me a rather silly piece, and it could easily prevent a less-than-determined listener from venturing further. I urge readers with an open ear for new sounds, as much for their own sake as for that of the orchestra (whose case might be helped by international sales of these discs, distributed in the US by Albany Records), to try this challenging music for themselves. Start with any of the other three works, and you are unlikely to be disappointed"