Jump to content

Johan De Meij - New Symphony "Planet Earth"


Saxbabe
 Share

Recommended Posts

Anyone else here into the work of Johan De Meij? (Dutch composer known for his "Lord of the Rings" Symphony, which he wrote from the Tolkien books, back in 1989 way before the movies)

This weekend is the world premiere of his latest Symphony - No. 3, called "Planet Ëarth". (Symphony No. 2 was called "The Big Apple", over New York, cool piece)

We went last night to the very first performance at De Doelen in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and it was simply SPECTACULAR! A superb piece of work. For those new to his music, his style is quite filmic and brassy, he writes wonderful themes and has a wicked sense for rhythm and mood.

There was a 30 min interview with him beforehand, where he talked about his intention of creating a "sequel" to Gustav Holst's The Planets in this 3rd Symphony. That's a pretty tall order! ;) He took cues from Holst but certainly went in his own direction, creating a thoroughly impressive, awe-inspiring and engaging symphony. The 3rd Movement is a clever play on a theme from Holst's "Jupiter" and instead of the Jupiter Hymn, he has created his own hymn to Gaia, "Mother Earth".

For brass lovers, this symphony is ear candy, using masses of sound to invoke a real wonder at the formation of our Earth and beginning of life. I took along a Silvestri (Judge Dredd hehe) fan who absolutely adored it. Good dose of electronics in it as well, neat stuff, including The Big Bang, and sounds of comets and asteroids whooshing by during the formation of our planet.

After the interview, I got a chance to talk to him and got my original '89 LOTR Symph. booklet signed and also a picture. ROTFLMAO He's gracious and approachable, taking a moment to speak to each, then and also at Intermission.

Cool story - there was an older man who spoke with him, who was there because he had happened upon the composer stranded in Amsterdam with a flat tire on his bicycle, helped him out, and as thanks he gave him some tickets - hehe, the guy had never heard of De Meij, but came along because he thought the composer was a cool guy. :P

There is a performance of "Planet Earth" also on Saturday, March 4, at De Oosterpoort in Groningen, which is in the north of The Netherlands. HIGHLY recommended for lovers of big, huge orchestral music!

Greta

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 28
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Cool.

I heard his LotR symphony performed in Amsterdam. It was alright, but I preferred Shore's music. Then again, I've heard that so many times it has become the sound of Tolkien to me. I only heard De Meij's symphony that one time (and some clips before that on the internet).

- Marc, who has a small feeling he knows who the Silvestri fan was. ROTFLMAO

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hehe ROTFLMAO I really liked his LOTR Symphony, but this one, wow - I feel his writing has matured a lot, more complex, and more powerful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I only know the orchestral version of the LOTR symphony, but I like that a lot, so I want to hear more.

Marian - who still has to figure out if the Lorien bit he lifted from RVW's London Symphony actually survived in the revised version of the RVW.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 10 months later...

Johan De Meij's Symphony No. 3 "Planet Earth"is now available on CD, recorded during the weekend of the world premiere. The orchestra is the Noord Nederlands Orkest (North Netherlands Orchestra) directed by Otto Tausk, who give a fine performance.

Also, the Symphony recently won 2nd prize in the 2006 International Composition Competition of Corciano in Italy.

The CD is published by Amstel Music and can be ordered for $25.00 USD. (click link)

I can't wait until it comes so I can hear it again! Totally awesome piece. (So great I think can forgive his bit of lifitng in his 2nd movement from Holst's "Jupiter" - The Planets ;)

And here was my pic with him :jump: :

JohanDeMeij.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I played english Horn and oboe on a few movements from his LOTR Symphony. It was wonderfully written and just in the right registers of our instruments, which isn't all that frequent in band liturature. If I'm not mistaken, the original symphony was for an expanded wind ensemble, correct? I think there were cello and bass parts, but everyone else was wind ensemble until he converted it to orchestra. Was this latest symphony full orchestral?

~JW

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Johan De Meij's Symphony No. 3 "Planet Earth"is now available on CD, recorded during the weekend of the world premiere.

The CD is published by Amstel Music and can be ordered for $25.00 USD. (click link)

Thanks for the links saxbabe409! I may give this a shot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I'm not mistaken, the original symphony was for an expanded wind ensemble, correct? I think there were cello and bass parts, but everyone else was wind ensemble until he converted it to orchestra. Was this latest symphony full orchestral?

Yeah, Symphony No. 1 was written originally for expanded wind ensemble, I don't know about a cello part, but there was string bass and piano parts. Then made into an orchestral version. I haven't heard the orchestral version, I'm curious about how it fares in the transcription?

Symphony No. 3 is fully orchestral with some ambient electronics, but he is in the process of creating a wind ensemble version.

She looks very short.

She also looks as if she has never been in the sun!

Actually I hadn't since I had been in Holland for a few months in the dead of winter at that time... :lol: In fact, it snowed like crazy outside during intermission of that concert, which was in early March.

And De Meij is EXTREMELY tall, about 6 foot 5 (not sure what that is in meteres) and I'm only 5 foot 2, so both actually!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

May look out for this symphony. Sounds like it could be good.

She looks very short.

She also looks as if she has never been in the sun!

Actually I hadn't since I had been in Holland for a few months in the dead of winter at that time... :lol: In fact, it snowed like crazy outside during intermission of that concert, which was in early March.

And De Meij is EXTREMELY tall, about 6 foot 5 (not sure what that is in meteres) and I'm only 5 foot 2, so both actually!

Don't we have lovely weather?

Incidentally, 6ft 5 is about 1.98 metres, so that really is pretty tall.

- Marc, about 1.83m/6ft

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting little anecdote...

I play in a very good community wind ensemble in Ridgewood, NJ called the Ridgewood Concert Band.

Well last night we're at rehearsal, the first for our March concert, and about mid-way through the rehearsal, our conductor looks to the side of the room, and says

"Oh, hi Johan! Everybody, you probably know my friend, Johan de Meij!"

He was sitting there for most of the night, and I didn't even notice!! I guess they are friends from their days in conservatories. But rumor had it he might be joining our group and playing Trombone. That would be a trip!

Just thought I'd share!

-JCM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a cool bit of luck! Let us know what happens with that :unsure:

Is Ridgewood near NYC? Because I believe he lives in the New York area now, at least for much of the year.

So, I got my "Planet Earth" CD about 2 weeks ago, and am back to share some thoughts on this disc after several listens...

The presentation is very nice, the back of the booklet is a color picture of the composer and inside are a few pages of background on the Symphony, and bios for the composer, the conductor and orchestra. It is printed in English and Dutch.

It mentions the high praise from the Dutch press after the Rotterdam premiere and has a few quotes, from De Volkskrant:

"Although the three movements together cover 3/4 of an hour, and for the most part is based on a pendulum motion of two major chords, it is an intensely stirring work - owing to a fantastic sound, from the electronic primeval thundery sounds at the barren, empty beginning, up to the heroically driving final boisterous sounds. Only a film screen with credit titles is missing."

While the CD performance (recorded a month later) and sound don't match up to the opening night, this work is still an interesting, fun, impressive effort and a good listen.

Each movement begins and ends with electronics redolent of a Trek score, which are well done and fit the story but can take you out of the experience a bit. After the simulated Big Bang (watch out for your speakers!!), you first begin with primordial galaxy goo and writing that is reminscent of the ominous sections of his LOTR. When it picks up with a Firebird-like brass fanfare, it becomes rather sweeping and romantic, introducing a lovely little theme (maybe a bit of JW influence here? ET?). Filmic writing. His themes do number less in this work and are more simple than the LOTR Symphony, but are however no less lovely. This movement closes with angelic choral writing to signify the formation of our planet.

The 2nd Movement opens with majestic brass, and then calms down for an extended woodwind section with the violin making appearances with quotes from "Jupiter". There are some fine solos here. However this movement doesn't really pick up until the halfway point, a turning point for this symphony. Fun plays on Holst's "Jupiter" theme and some familiar De Meij-isms, the powerful syncopated brass writing he's known for. If it is more show than substance at times, it's still very impressive.

The 3rd Movement - this more than makes up for the shortcomings of first two and is worth the price of admission. It opens with strong brass fanfares, which really were awesome live. (However, here the NNO brass have some noticeable difficulty.) Here is the largest paean to Holst, playing heavily with the Jupiter theme (in a minor key), and with a pause, he launches into his own "Jupiter Hymn" (for Mother Gaia), which has a very nice theme in its own right. The female choir is used to GREAT effect, singing text from the Greek Homeric hymns to Gaia. This is the best, strongest part of the whole symphony, with full ensemble plus full on choral writing. It's truly huge and gorgeous, IMO making it worth every penny. :) The Gaia theme resounds and resounds, culminating in an spectacular ending.

I still would say his LOTR Symphony is the best (there are a wealth of themes there and are stronger), but this CD comes with a strong recommendation if you're a fan of his work, or just love big brass + choral orchestral writing. If you're looking for something like Holst's Planets, you'll be a bit disappointed, however his play on "Jupiter" is rather interesting.

I will warn that the Noord Nederlands Orkest is not the LSO (sorry Dutchies!) and they were overmatched at times (although this was actually commissioned by/for them). There are a few tuning and endurance issues, and the sound is lacking some in presence and bottom end, compared to how the same orchestra sounded live. But all in all, I do commend them, the emotion is certainly there (and the choir is fantastic).

So, now the symphony is coming to and end as I'm writing this, and so does this review...If you're still here, thanks for reading! :P

Greta

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, Ridgewood is about 1/2 hour or 20 min outside NYC. I heard he lives in the area of NJ that we rehearse. So I'll definetly keep you informed if he does actually join our group!

-JCM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd like to hear his LOTR symphony as well - which would be the best recording?

There are two - the LSO's recording of the arrangement for orchestra is, of course, wonderful. You can find it on Amazon. But the "original" - recorded by "Koninklije Militaire Kapel" - is my favorite. It's not perfect, but I love the expression. You can find it on amazon as well - here.

Someone on Amazon said the music is not very "Tolkein"ish - I must disagree. Read the passages about Gandalf's battle with the Balrog while you listen to "A Journey in the Dark" - the part when Gandalf's theme is stated as he falls into the pit is SO wonderful. It's perfectly timed with the book and, imho, as Tolkeinish as it gets!

I suppose I might like the Gandalf movement a little better on the LSO recording, but not by much. The other recording is the first one I heard - I think it was the only one out for years - and in my head, that's just how it's supposed to sound!

Fantastic, wonderful piece.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose I might like the Gandalf movement a little better on the LSO recording, but not by much. The other recording is the first one I heard - I think it was the only one out for years - and in my head, that's just how it's supposed to sound!

Fantastic, wonderful piece.

Yep, I know what you mean. I love the emotion and tempi in the original KMK recording. It's been out of print for a while though. Gah, only 1 on Amazon going for $100! :eek: Mine is even older, with the Ottavo label on the front and "Sudler Award 1989". Scans:

LOTR1989small.jpg

LOTR1989signedsmall.jpg

The United States Air Force Band's recording is also very fine, exciting tempi and technically practically perfect. It used to be available for free download through their website, but sadly isn't now, and I don't see it in their Discography. If anyone wants it though, you can PM me.

Someone on Amazon said the music is not very "Tolkein"ish - I must disagree. Read the passages about Gandalf's battle with the Balrog while you listen to "A Journey in the Dark" - the part when Gandalf's theme is stated as he falls into the pit is SO wonderful. It's perfectly timed with the book and, imho, as Tolkeinish as it gets!

I love that movement and think it is perfect for the story, IMO his LOTR hits the mark more than Shore's at times. I also think the "Gollum [smeagol]" movement is spot on, the snarling, spitting soprano sax is how I how I pictured him when I read the book, and the off-kiliter circus-like band accompaniment well illustrates how Gollum has gone 'round the twist, shall we say... ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...
Anyone else here into the work of Johan De Meij? (Dutch composer known for his "Lord of the Rings" Symphony, which he wrote from the Tolkien books, back in 1989 way before the movies)

Yeah, I adore that guy. He's also already been to Slovenia a couple of times and I've had the luck to have several of my de Meij CDs signed, as well as my LotR symphony study score autographed. :D I've quite a few of his CDs (many different performances of LotR symphony and more) and I've also already had the luck of playing his music with a symphonic winds I'm a member of. He's a fantastic composer and a very nice and friendly person.

But I'd also like to point out another great composer, Jan Van der Roost. He's from Belgium and we've played (with symph. winds) his Sinfonietta, suito-sketches for symphonic band (incredibly difficult, but also incredibly beautiful piece) and Spartacus, symphonic tone poem. Wonderful, wonderful music, so check him out. :)

vdroost139ls.jpg

Maglorfin & Jan Van der Roost at a concert band competition in Krsko, Slovenia in 2006. :P

P. S.: Saxbabe, nice pic of you & Johan! ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.