Peeters' Opus 100
Flor Peeters has celebrated his hundredth opus. There are various ways of doing this. Some composers may slip past unobtrusively with a miniature; others may proudly mark the occasion with a symphony. Peeters has topped the bill with 213 Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, in 24 books. The first 12 are published (brochure available from Hinrichsen Edition); the rest follow shortly. I do not apologize for reviewing half the work, for that still involves 240 pages of music. When writing for the average player, Peeters imposes upon himself a discipline that restricts the harmonic language, and possesses an inbuilt resourcefulness that minimizes the sense of restriction. He wisely adopts 17th-centuryformulas for clothing hymn tunes with neatly-worked counterpoint. Constantly does one admire the skill of Peeters's application; and his innate sense of effect is often diverting.
For instance, the triumphant, marching For all the Saints is treated quietly and thoughtfully; and the flamboyance of Miles Lane is subdued peacefully in compound time. Both involve strings of 6/4s, a characteristic feature that can turn the tables on a composer less aware of the hazards. Yet, in the face of what is involved in this enormous undertaking, no device has been so repeated that it becomes tiresome. The shape and flow of plainsong melodies tends to draw a keener response from Peeters than the square-cut metrical tune. Jesu, dulcedo cordium is the basis of one of the most expressive preludes in the first batch, and Verbum supernum paced out in a slow 3/2 is superbly austere. Veni Creator is specially honoured with a miniature partita. When it comes to tunes hallowed by the Anglican or Free Church traditions, such as Wesley's Aurelia, this Belgian composer has effectively severed the familiar harmonic surroundings, sometimes with delicious results.
The usefulness of this collection to the British organist is not seriously diminished by the tunes that are unfamiliar. So much remains, all playable on a small instrument; and most of the tunes appear, plain or embellished, in the soprano. Congregational ears, defeated by the ingenuity of modem chorale preludes, will usually spot the tune in Peeters's Op. 100 - perhaps to their surprise and delight.
Ramsey, B.: Organ music - Flor Peeters, in: The Musical Times, jrg. 108, nr. 1489, maart 1967, p. 260.