The Composer Speaks – Bernard van Beurden

With over 30 major works for wind band, why is this composer so little known outside Holland?

A colleague at the University of Kentucky was trying to track down Bernard van Beurden and so I was inspired to look at his current website and re-visit my notes on him from 2005 when I made him Composer of the Month.

Bernard wrote to me recently:

I just saw you are using an old mail address.This is the correct one

By the way I like to inform you about the music for windorchestra I composed in the last 3 years.

Concerto for Baritonsaxophone and Windorchestra;

4 Movements for saxophonequartet and Windorchestra;

In Connection With for flute/picolo (one plager) and Windorchestra;

At the moment I am working on a concerto for alto saxophone and double windquintet.

I hope you are fine.

Best wishes,

Bernard van Beurden

Bernard Van Beurden - born 1933

CD number 1 in my collection of well over 300 so far catalogued is Dutch, Arie van Beek conducting the Wind Orchestra of the Rotterdam Conservatory in an extraordinary programme of music by Bernard van Beurden:

• Concerto for Large Wind Orchestra (1990) 21.47
• Estampie (1978 rev 1992) 11.04
• La Messe* (1988) 26.03

*For mezzo soprano, accordion, cello and large wind orchestra

Bernard van Beurden was born in 1933 in Amsterdam, and studied violin and viola at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music, continuing his studies in composition with Rudolf Escher and Ton de Leeuw. Upon graduating he continued as instructor at the preparatory academy of the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music as well as teaching at the theatre school in various other capacities. In 1969 he founded the Muzisch Lab, a workshop for amateur musicians.

From 1970 to 1980 he gave workshops on contemporary music in The Netherlands and throughout Europe, as well as producing many family concerts. During this period he also worked in radio, producing numerous programmes on new music. In 1978 he was appointed professor at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. There he founded d'ACCORD, an ensemble consisting of ten accordions and whose repertoire consisted entirely of contemporary music.

He showed a keen interest in composition from the age of 11 and during his conservatory studies was involved in various theatrical productions as composer; he has thus been involved in many facets of the arts for most of his life. Since 1980 Bernard van Beurden has concentrated his efforts on composing and at present works exclusively as a composer.

Bernard van Beurden's compositions cover a wide range of genres: music for radio, television and theatre; chamber, choral and orchestral music. He has a clear preference for music for wind instruments. Most of Bernard van Beurden's works are published by MuziekGroep Nederland/Donemus, but at present his choral works are also published in America.

As a music educator Bernard van Beurden wrote a Workbook for music of the present(Werkboek voor Muziek van Nu), a book assisting in the practical performance of contemporary music in schools and in other group situations.

He has written a number of articles stressing the need for change and innovation in the world of the Fanfare, Harmony and Brass Bands. His programme note on the slow movement of the Concerto for Large Wind Orchestra begins:

In much music for wind band one finds always the same recognisable use of tone colours. Composers in this field tend to use the same easily applicable instrumentation models all the time, thereby creating a certain dull uniformity in compositions for wind band, as if the same piece is being composed over and over again.

Werken voor harmonie- en fanfareorkest

  • 1975 Konzertante Musik voor altviool, blazers en slagwerk
  • Concert voor fluit en fanfareorkest
  • ER voor popband en fanfareorkest (voor het Holland Festival)
  • Pastorale voor viool en harmonieorkest
  • 1978 rev.1992 Estampie, voor harmonie- of fanfareorkest
  • 1981 Cantus firmus for a playing/talking wind orchestra, percussion and audience - based on fragments from The Magic of Music (for Choir) from Ton de Leeuw
  • 1984 Concertante voor viool, altviool en harmonieorkest
  • 1984 Concertino voor saxofoonkwartet, harp, piano slagwerk en harmonieorkest
  • 1988 La Messe voor solo mezzosopraan, accordeon, cello en symfonisch blaasorkest op teksten van Paul Verlaine
  • 1989 Häggsjö concerto voor 8 accordeons, 2 bas accordeons en symfonisch blaasorkest
  • 1990 Concerto for large Windorchestra, voor groot harmonieorkest
  • 1991 Grenzeloos, voor sopraan en fanfareorkest op teksten uit o.a. de Koran en de Bijbel en het Requiem
  • 1992 Concert voor fagot en harmonieorkest
  • 1992 Concert voor piccolotrompet, trompet (C), bugel (Flügelhorn) en harmonieorkest
  • 1993 From Turkey vijf liederen voor sopraan en klein blaasorkest
  • 1995 Concerto medievale voor blazerskwintet en fanfareorkest
  • 1995 Poème de l'automne voor fluit en fanfareorkest
  • 1995 Requiem van het volk (People's requiem) voor vrouwenkoor, mannenkoor, accordeon en harmonieorkest
  • 1997 Motion voor harmonieorkest
  • 1998 Concerto da caccia voor octet (2 hobo's, 2 klarinetten, 2 hoorns, 2 fagotten) en fanfareorkest
  • 1998 Concerto voor cello en harmonieorkest
  • 1998 Game / Jeu voor harmonieorkest
  • 1999 Music for a Medieval (K)Night voor harmonieorkest
  • 2000 A vous bel ami voor mezzosopraan, altviool, harp en fanfareorkest
  • 2003 Songs of the sky loom voor acteur, koor en harmonieorkest
  • 2004 Boulevard des Misères voor tenor, basbariton, bas, vrouwenkoor, harmonieorkest en twee vertellers
  • 2007 Moving voor klarinetkwartet (es, bes, alt en bas) en harmonieorkest
  • 2007 Concerto, voor baritonsaxofoon en harmonieorkest - geschreven voor Andreas van Zoelen en opgedragen aan Jan Hermans
    1. Allegro agitato
    2. A la valse
    3. Adagio (molto legato)
    4. Allegro energico (staccato)
  • 2009 Four Movements for Saxophone Quartet and Wind Orchestra voor saxofoonkwartet en harmonieorkest
  • 2010 In Connection With voor dwarsfluit/piccolo en harmonieorkest