In 2008, the Ministry of Culture of Flanders (the Northern part oft he Kingdom of Belgium) sponsored four CD productions around Peter Ritzen.
Ritzen Franck Piano Quintets
On December 19, 2008; the renowned Moscow Chamber Academy joined Mr. Ritzen in a concert at the historic Lakenmetershuis. A fantastic ambivalent historic space build in the early 18th century (1722) with supreme acoustics. The completely sold out event featured a new composition by Ritzen: Quintet in F-sharp minor for piano and string quartet. The concert was a milestone in the annals of culture, of the city of Ghent. The studio recording of Ritzen’s Quintet, was however, made one day later. Sessions started no earlier than midnight, due to the not-so-secure isolation of the building.
Peter Ritzen recollect here: ‘There were a lot of practical things to be resolved. First of all, we only had access to the building in the evening. Lieven Muessen, the sound engineer needed to position his equipment in an improvised room near the hall. Dozens of cables were to be attached to the floor, not to mention the mikes, which had to be positioned in the right spots in order to pick up, the real sound of that wonderful hall.
I had a friend, colleague, who voluntarily came to function as artistic director. It was a unique experience, and unforgettable too.’
One day later, the Quintet in F by Cesar Franck (1822-1890) was recorded in another location. Because Mr. Ritzen insisted he wanted to use a historic piano for this repertoire. The choice fell on the most wonderful castle of Uitbergen, near Ghent, and privately owned by relatives of Ritzen. Also in Uitbergen, there were improvised, unorthodox recording methods. The recording room was being located ,.. at the private Catholic house chapel! The piano, a full sizeERARD build in 1878 (the Franck Quintet was composed in 1878!) was a tremendous vehicle. But it had cracks and creeps.. Fortunately, Ritzen’s artistic director, Peter Kestens, who was again present, repaired and muffled all problems instantly. Thanks to his passion for the technical aspects of historic instruments! Ritzen recollects: ‘my relatives Olga & Phil Berkmoes, came to peep-in during a session. There were many tensions, because we had only limited recording time. The violist had to catch a plane to Poland. And we played the Lento movement like in a concert. It was a real momentum, as this take was left untouched, and uncut, in this recording.’
We have covered the choral rehearsals of Heavenly Peace. This production is without doubt, the largest and most daring project Renaissance Music Society has undertaken, so far.
In fact, there is much more story on record about the rehearsals with orchestra as mentioned in another article.
The first rehearsals with the two joined orchestras, dubbed New Dynasty Philharmonic Orchestra, and the fully present chorus, took place in a rather too narrow rehearsal room of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. It was so hot there and tense, that even some chorus members became unwell. SoloistStella Chang, had to engage in first aid and psychological assistance for some chorus members! Also there were lots of tensions of certain participants, who unlawfully attempted to engage in changing text phrases, according to theirphilosophy. Something that, of course, the composer and the librettist vehemently opposed! There were even meetings at the lobby of the European Academy of Music on Zhong Xan Bei street where certain members, flanked by their benefactors, showed up, and wanted, pencil in the hand,.. erase some words of the Catholic Lacrymosa; the only text which was not written by Santiago Ruperez, but taken from the traditional Missal.
However, when June 6 came, all problems were resolved and Heavenly Peace was performed genuinely, like it was written in the score! One must also realize that Heavenly Peace is a work, comparable with Mahler’s Symphony Nr. VIII, in magnitude and power. That means: many practical aspects had to be organized and problems resolved: like the space on the stage! Not to mention of how to put meticulously the mikes which such a large crowd.
The result of this production is a recording in which the merger of all forces comes to a final majestic outcome.
It will stay in the hearts and minds of the many who participated. It will stay in the remembrance of the many who attended that memorable concert of June 6th 2005.
Finis est infinitus
In December of 2009, there was the premiere of Ritzen’s symphonic poem: Finis est infinitus. The concert was again organized by the Rode Pomp, who hosted since many years the concerts of Ritzen, whenever he came to Ghent to perform. This time the concert took place in the former Parnassus Church . The hall was packed with audience, despite the fact that temperatures dropped to minus 6-7 that evening. It was the first time that Ritzen’s fellow citizens saw him conducting, and nobody less than Stella Chang, the giant Soprano from Heavenly Peace, who everybody admires in the recording and YouTube films, was sole soloist. The result was an appalling first performance, picked up by the recording equipment of the Rode Pomp (Emmanuel Sproelands). The result is a sound document of this symphonic masterpiece. Notice also that Ritzen, wrote partly the librettos in Hebrew and German. Besides deriving the famous Salve Regina, from the traditional Catholic missal. Like Ritzen says: borrow from the ancient to create the new.
Cesar Franck Piano Works
Somewhere in the summer of 2010 the recording sessions went into full motion for Ritzen’s Cesar Franck Repertoire at the China Record Corporation Beijing Studios. It is another aspect oft he artist, who is deeply affiliated with Cesar Franck (1822-1890) through his early education in the Ghent Royal Conservatory. A rarity in this recording is without doubt, the violin sonata of the master, transcribed by Alfred Cortot (( Ritzen’s Alma Mater! École Normale de Musique the Paris ‘Alfred Cortot’ ).
However, Ritzen readapted parts of the violin deeper more profoundly into the piano solo score.
The result is a symphonic approach, in pure Lisztian traditions, compelled with appalling drama and exuberance.