#212– August 14, 2023
Gaston Brenta and The Synthetists
Zo’Har, by Belgian composer Gaston Brenta is our Composition of the Week.
During the coming summer weeks, we are presenting Belgian literature for wind orchestra by Paul Gilson and a group of his students who, in September 1925, joined their creative forces to form the first group of composers in Belgian history, called the Synthetists.
The music they produced constitutes an unavoidable historical heritage of the early 20th century.
This fresh and imaginative repertoire, of great artistic quality, remains curiously and unjustly unknown.
Zo’Har was written in 1928, it is choreographic poem inspired by an episode of the novel of French author Catulle Mendès (1843 – 1909).
This novel is about incest. Léopold and Stéphana de la Roquebrussane are brother and sister, but only meet as adults and fall in love with each other.
From this incestuous passion, Catulle Mendès, the leading writer of the decadent movement, draws the figure of the sister lover, charged with all the values of this literary movement: transgression, gender inversion, devouring femininity. He dramatizes his story by referring to Zo’har, one of the five cities burnt down in the same conditions as Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament.
The wind band version was premiered at The Synthetistes concert on February 27, 1930.
Shortly afterwards, Brenta made a version for symphony orchestra.
The work is scored for large Wind Orchestra, including English-Horn, Contrabassoon, 2 cornets, Double Bass, Celesta, Harp, and a large Percussion section (5).
It has a duration of 15 minutes.
Zo’har is available at Band Press, Belgium.
Gaston Brenta studied with Paul Gilson. From 1931 he worked for the Belgian Radio and Television, where he created and organized the discotheque in 1953. He was also responsible for the French-language music program.
Brenta played flugelhorn at the “Chapelle musicale du 4e régiment des carabiniers”, under René Deceuninck.
He was an international composer and jury member. His Second Concerto for piano and orchestra was chosen in 1968 as a compulsory work for the Queen Elisabeth Competition.
Brenta was elected to the « Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux-arts de Belgique ».
As a writer, he published « Panorama de la musique belge au XIXe siècle », « Notes brèves sur les symphonies de Beethoven », as well as a detailed biography of Paul Gilson and a study on Adolphe Sax and instrument making.
His composition output comprises some fifty scores.
Other works for winds include:
- Variations sur un thème congolais (1926)
- Marche barbare (1926)
- Fanfare (1935), for Brass.
- In Memoriam Paul Gilson (1943-1944)
- Fanfare héroïque (1945), for Brass
- Le soldat fanfaron (1952), for wind quintet.