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Dutch Wind Music

Five Dutch Composers

I first fell in love with Holland when I played in the Concertgebouw with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain too many years ago, and over the decades I have renewed that love affair, first through the most wonderful conducting course run by the NOS at Hilversum, and then through visits to conduct, to hear students conduct, or simply to eat, drink and listen to other conductors making music. There are many very vivid memories, Mahler at the Concertgebouw, sitting next to Messiaen during a rehearsal of Turangalila in Rotterdam, van Otterloo conducting his wonderful Symphonietta, Böhm conducting Bruckner and of course the extraordinary conducting course at the NOS near Hilversum. The sixtieth anniversary of the birth of Tristan Keuris, who sadly died ten years ago, led me to look into my records of five of the, to my mind, leading Dutch composers for wind. There are many more works by more and by less popular composers which need to be researched and played.

Willem Van Otterloo 1907 - 1978

I remember as an orchestral conducting student being first intrigued and then completely bowled over by the Symphonietta for 16 wind by van Otterloo, hearing him conduct it with the Concertgebouw. It is a strong work, scored for triple wind with the usual doublings of piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet, contra bassoon, and four horns. It is published by Donemus as is theSerenade for Brass, equally fine. His centenary in 2007 will be a great time to revive both works.

Lex Van Delden 1919 - 1988

b.10 September 1919, d 1 July 1988

  • Op 67 Piccolo Concerto (1960) 2222:22::T P Pft: 10 minutes
  • Op 78 Animal Suite for male voice choir and ensemble : 10 minutes
  • Op 80 Fantasia K.V. 594 by Mozart, orchestrated as op 80 (1963) 1222:2: 10 minutes
  • Op 83 Sinfonia V11 - Sinfonia Concertante (1964) 2222:2 + bass clarinet 22 minutes
  • Op 87 Fantasia (1965) Harp 0222:2: 10 minutes
  • Op 96 *Partita (1965) Fanfare Band
  • Op 104 Concerto for Violin, Woodwind & Percussion op 104 (1978) 2333:4:Perc: 17
  • Op 107 Quintet for Brass (1981) horn, 2 trpt 2 trb
  • Op 109 Marcia Pomposa (1982) Symphonic Wind Band
  • Op 112 Tomba (1985) Saxophone Quartet
  • Op 113 *Adonijah's Death (1986) Male voice choir and Symphonic Wind Band

It is very easy for composers, even good composers, to get forgotten, especially if like Lex van Delden they earn their living in another way. Van Delden's studies were in medicine, and these were interrupted by World War II. In 1947 he became the music editor for the daily paper Het Parool, and was extremely influential in Dutch musical life, holding a number of important administrative posts, as well as composing in all forms.

Self-taught as a composer, his style is traditional; his work for wind could be categorised as "neo-classic", (it is strange that we actually mean neo-Baroque more often than not by this slightly perjorative term), cast in that post-Stravinsky, post-Hindemith language which exploits the sonorities of wind, brass and percussion so aptly. I find, however, that he also has a warmth and lyricism so often lacking in this type of music. Most of his wind music is for small ensembles, and his love of the wind orchestra sound-world is shown in his many concertos, including examples for flute, percussion, trumpet, 2 oboes, 2 soprano saxophones, and three trombones.

There is a passion and energy about his music which should bring his work in to the public domain. The duet for the soloist and the bass clarinet in the slow movement of his Violin Concerto, the romantic gestures of the Fantasia op 57, the slow movement of the Piccolo Concerto (this is a small concerto, not a concerto for piccolo), these are passages of great beauty which make a marvellous foil to the restless bustle of his allegro movements. Some idea of the importance of his work can be gleaned from the fact that the Piccolo Concerto, which was played at the 1991 WASBE/BASBWE Conference, has also been programmed by the Concertgebouw (conducted by Jochum), the Hague Residentie (Otterloo), the Suisse Romande (Baud-Bovy), American Wind Symphony (Boudreau) and the Irish Symphony (Tibor Paul). TheSinfonia VII op 83 was written for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, who played it at the Wigmore Hall on their London debut concert.

Available from Donemus

Published by Molenaar

More details of his music is available from the Lex van Delden Foundation, c/o Flat 3/120 Kentish Town Road, London NW1 9PY, tel +44 171 482 5519 or from Donemus

Tristan Keuris 1946 - 1996

Tristan Keuris was one of the most striking and original musical voices of recent years, displaying a mastery of form and technique, a synthesis of style and language, and combining intellectual integrity with great powers of utterance.

Catena: Refrains and Variations for 31 wind instruments, percussion and celeste (1988) - 14 minutes

Intermezzi (1989) - 11 minutes
Orchestration 1(pic)222(cbn)/2000

Giles Easterbrook writes:

The origins of this piece are interesting enough to bear recounting, a classic - if unconventional - example of 'Business Sponsorship of the Arts'. On the occasion of the retirement of a leading executive of a major Dutch advertising bureau, his colleagues asked him what he would like as a leaving present. His reply was immediate: a work commissioned from his favourite composer - Tristan Keuris - for his favourite artists - The Netherlands Wind Ensemble. Keuris was approached and the idea appealed to him so much that he accepted despite an extremely congested composing schedule. The result was Intermezzi (1989), commissioned by Slot & Bos, and first performed (privately) by the NWE on May 26, 1989. The public premiere was given in Manchester on November 5 by the RNCM Wind Ensemble, since when the work has received a number of broadcasts and been taken up by several ensembles.

Coincidentally, at the time of this commission, Keuris was hard at work on another wind piece,Catena (for 31 wind instruments and percussion) for the centenary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and it is interesting to compare the two: they are as different as possible granted they are from the same man, Catena with its enormous range of mood, colour and dynamic, its massive tutti passages of power and fire contrasting with sections of lyricism and almost 'frozen' tranquillity; Intermezzi with its delicacy, poise and divertimento-like charm. What they have in common is their unerring musicality, masterly handling of instruments, the choice of the appropriate duration and manner for the material, the perfect marriage of style and content. Atmospheric effect is achieved by thematic working, not gesture, within the framework of a basic given mood.

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

Recently Bernard sent me a recording of three very exciting concerti, especially so in that they are for instruments not often favoured:

  • Concertino for soprano saxophone and wind orchestra 14.35
  • Concerto for violoncello and wind orchestra 29.54
  • Concerto for bassoon, wind ensemble and percussion 13.31

I was so intrigued by these works that I made Bernard Composer of the Month in my June 2005 Homepage and did a little research into his works for wind:

Compositions For Wind Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Fanfare Orchestra by Bernard Van Beurden

For Wind Orchestra
1984 Concerto for violin, viola and wind orchestra
1988 La Messe (The Mass) for soprano, accordion, violoncello and wind orchestra
1990 Concerto for Large Wind orchestra
1991 Concertino for soprano saxophone and wind orchestra
1992 Praise the Trumpet for 9 trumpets and wind orchestra
1992 Concerto for piccolo trumpet, trumpet, flugelhorn and wind orchestra
1993 REQUIEM for 3 female voices, male choir and wind orchestra
1993 From Turkey for soprano and wind orchestra
1998 Concerto for violoncello and wind orchestra
1999 Music for a Medieval (K)Night.
2002 Pastorale for violin and wind orchestra
2002 Let's Go for 9 saxophones and wind orchestra
2003 Song of the Skyloom for mixed choir, voice (spoken) and wind orchestra
2003 DE MIS (The Mass) for male choir and wind orchestra
2004 Boulevard des Misères for female choir, 3 solo-male voices, 2 voices (spoken) and wind orchestra

Fanfare Wind Orchestra

Fanfare is a typical Dutch brass orchestra you also find in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

The orchestration is saxophones, flugelhorns, trumpets, horns, trombones, tenor tubas, bass tubas and percussion. (A Fanfare is NOT a brass band)

For Fanfare Wind Orchestra
1991 Grenzeloos (Boundless) for soprano and fanfare orchestra
1991 Estampie for fanfare orchestra
1995 Poème de l'Automne (Poem for the Autumn) for flute and fanfare orchestra
1995 Concerto Mediavale for brass quintet and fanfare orchestra
2000 A vous bel ami for soprano, harp, viola and wind orchestra
2001 Wals (walz) for violoncello and fanfare orchestra
2003 Four Turkish Folksongs for soprano and fanfare orchestra
2004 Concerto for Fanfare orchestra (première July 2005 in Singapore during the WASBE)
For Wind Ensemble (about 15 players)
1982 Estampie for wind ensemble
1992 Concerto for bassoon and wind ensemble
1998 Pour le Tombeau d'Anatole for soprano and wind ensemble
1998 Game / Jeu for wind ensemble

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.

Alexander Comitas - born 1957

Alexander Comitas, the pseudonym for Ed de Boer, was born 24th July 1957 in Sneek, Holland. He studied piano and composition in the Conservatory in Utrecht, and later orchestral conducting in Maastricht with Anton Kersjes. From 1781 to 1990 he was a freelance pianist, mainly with the radio orchestras, he conducted various amateur groups and he became in 1994 a professor in composiiton at the Utrecht Conservatoire. His orchestral and choral music has been played in the BBC Proms, in St Petersburg and regularly throughout Europe.

He has written several compositions for wind orchestra; a.o. two Armenian Rhapsodies and, commissioned by the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, A Night on Culbin Sands.Caucasian Epode was commissioned by the 'Nederlands Instituut voor Blaasmuziek'.

The first performance was 28 July 1995, Concert Hall, Hamamatsu, Japan (Final Concert of the International WASBE Conference 1995). Armenian Rhapsody Nr. I served as a compulsory piece during the First Open Dutch Championship for concert level wind orchestras, in Kerkrade in 1995. A Night on Culbin Sands was selected to serve as a compulsory piece for concert level wind orchestras, during the 2001 World Music Contest in Kerkrade.

Wind Orchestra or Wind Ensemble

The wind world of the Netherlands is extremely active, both in the area of wind band and fanfare band. Contesting as strong as here in the brass bands, and this had led to a great deal of music which is aimed at exhibiting the virtuosity of the players and pleasing the public. There are a great number of pieces which are enormously effective by composers not listed above, and as these often have considerable commercial success, they do not need my advocacy. There are also a number of chamber wind works written for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and other groups which also need investigation. For more information, please visit the sites of publishers or of the music information and publishing house, DONEMUS.