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Stehman: Symphonie de Poche

March 15, 2010

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The National Orchestra of Belgium
(L’Orchestre nationale de Belgique; Het Nationaal Orkest van Belgie)
Under the Direction of Edouard van Remoortel

Jacques Stehman: Symphonie de Poche

1. Introduction
2. Vif
3. Lent
4. Allegro

Recorded in 1954

We have pocket books, pocket watches, pocket calculators. Surely it was only a matter of time before we had the technology to develop a pocket symphony. Here’s another of those mid-twentieth-century contemporary Belgians (we’ve already heard from Defossez), and almost everything I know about him comes from the liner notes.

“The music of Jacques Stehman is clear and simple in style,” one music critic wrote. “It is a happy music.” I might also call it “academic,” but in a good way. This little symphony is almost an encyclopedia of European music, from the baroque to the atonal. Stehman was a professor at the same conservatory where he had been a student, so most of his life had been spent studying great music in a comfortable scholarly environment.  Yet all these influences fit together in his music, and nothing seems out of place.

There are four movements:

1. Introduction, after the manner of an overture in the old style. It begins with a brass fanfare, then moves into a fugue section for the woodwinds before returning to the brass. (For Stehman, the wind instruments seem to be the skeleton of the orchestra, the strings only adding some flesh.)

2. Vif. A lively movement. A bit of atonal noodling in the strings and woodwinds resolves itself into cheerful melody in the strings and brasses.

3. Lent. A slow movement that invites us to relax a bit

4. Allegro. Stehman throws all his orchestral colors against the canvas, ending with a coda in which the fanfare from the Introduction reappears.

The sound from this 10-inch LP is pretty good, though a bit dry for modern tastes. In the first movement there is a little clipping in some of the loudest brass sections, which seems to be unavoidable. I did not use a click filter on that movement, for fear of causing even more clipping, so you will hear a few insignificant pops and clicks.


From → Classical

  1. Your link for the third movement actually links to the second movement.

    Can you please fix the link?

    This is one of my FAVORITE pieces of music – I’m so happy to have found your posting, except for the missing third movement!

    • Dr. Boli permalink

      The link is now corrected. Many apologies for the mistake.

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  1. Stehman: Marche funebre « The Lateral Cut

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