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Above J.S. Bach’s simple Prelude in C minor (‘Pour le luth’, BWV 999) a romantic melody is to be heard (without words) which can serve as a vocalise (study for the voice) due to its many technical and rhythmical complications. The present score is a new version of the original one, published in 1988 by Broekmans & Van Poppel in ‘the composer’s handwriting’, whereby the performance possibilities have been extended. A version for solo piano (two hands) has been added.
A composer from The Hague who fascinates me is Bernhard van den Sigtenhorst Meyer (1888-1953). My interest lies in particular in his early piano music, which is written in a modal-impressionist style. These compositions provide rare examples of Hague Impressionism in the musical arts. In Of Flowers and Birds – To the memory of Bernhard van den Sigtenhorst Meyer, themes and motifs are incorporated from two of those early piano suites.
Armenia is a transcription for piano of the Suite of Popular Armenian Tunes on the gramophone record Arménie – Musique Instrumental (OCR 67). After writing the music down by ear I have freely arranged it. In the slow middle section are to be heard imitations of Armenian folk instruments such as the qanun and the duduk. In the accompaniment patterns frequently descending lines occur. Such lines also appear in Khachaturian’s Sonatina and the popular Toccata.
In 2017 I was pleasantly surprised by a request from the famous Greek pianist Theodore Tzovanakis, who asked me if he might be allowed to perform the work on a tour through Switzerland (world première in Geneva) and the Netherlands (Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam). I took the opportunity to thoroughly work through the score once more, resulting in this third version, which, of course, was gratefully dedicated to Theodore Tzovanakis.
The Three Songs for Piano originated in the winter of 1982-83 as songs for baritone and piano. Some years later I rewrote them for solo piano and I revised the composition in 1993, whereupon the cycle was recorded and released (AB I-01). Only in the spring of 2006 did I proceed to prepare the composition for print. The work is written in the Romantic style, with some detectable influence from the ‘light muse’.
Because of the frequent use of seventh, ninth and eleventh chords, a certain affinity with jazz can be detected in Mélodie. The association with the world of the Romantic salon works is clearly audible in Valse finale. However, this composition is quite complex. Because of the difficult left-hand part with its many leaps and the widely broken chord formations that twirl as garlands through the music, this melodic study is a quite difficult entity.
This little piece is intentionally a pastiche in which various elements of familiar Chopin waltzes are integrated. The overall atmosphere is ‘Chopinesque’, but in terms of style you find yourself in the early decennia of the 20th century. What I wished to capture was on the one hand the melancholy emanating from various waltzes by the Polish master, on the other hand the charm and pianistic finesse of this excellent music, all of this seen through the rose-tinted glasses of French salon music at the fin de siècle.
In Variations on ‘My Funny Valentine’ an attempt has been made to link the world of the musical with that of Romantic piano music. After the theme in C minor, the melancholy and ardour that pervade it are amplified in the following two variations. The variations in major in the middle of the work offer some emotional respite, after which the gracefully swaying fourth variation in Siciliano rhythm provides for some lightness and movement. Thereafter, however, the true character of the song returns and shrouds the melody in the dark vestment of impossible love.
On 7 November 2019, pianist and piano pedagogue Janine Dispa-van Mever passed away at the age of ninety. I came to know her as an excellent teacher, who helped me to largely overcome the professional disease focal dystonia that cast a shadow over my career as a pianist. The funeral card I received after her death contained a beautiful poem, the Herbstlied by Siegfried August Mahlmann. Inspired by the comforting words of this poem, in which the farewell to life is so beautifully sung, this song came into being in the winter of 2019–20.