AB II-12


Albert Brussee

for piano

The genesis of Eleven studies on a theme by J. Mulders spans a period of 35 years. In essence composed in 1983/84 the first version was published in 2004. Rewriting the composition in 2009, the second version saw the light of day in 2010. In 2017 I was pleasantly surprised by a request from the famous Greek pianist Theodore Tzovanakis (https://tzovanakis.com), 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, which resulted in this third version, which, we may assume, is the final one. With two etudes (numbers III and VIII from the second version) I was not that happy and I replaced these with a waltz in A major. This gave me the idea of restoring the old concept of the first version: to relieve the technically demanding studies twice by an intermezzo of melodic character. However, in contrast to the first version, these intermezzi are also variations on the theme, respectively in the character of an elegiac sarabande and a charming waltz. In connection with this, the order of the slightly revised studies has been somewhat modified. The variation technique employed is that of the ‘character variation’, whereby in general the number of bars, the phraseology and the harmonic functions remain essentially intact. This applies especially to the peripheral studies. Those at the heart of the composition deviate more from the ground-plan, in terms of key, structure and harmony.
This final version of the work is, of course, gratefully dedicated to Theodore Tzovanakis.
Style: romantic, modal.
Level of difficulty: Grade VIII-XI (on a scale of XII grades)

Theme – Andante
Etude I – Un poco più mosso
Etude II – Alla Siciliano
Etude III – Allegro non troppo, ma burlesco
Etude IVSarabanda elegica (Intermezzo I)
Etude V – Allegro appassionata e agitato
Etude VI – Andante quieto e espressivo
Etude VII – Andantino. Scorrevole e sempre legato
Etude VIIIValse charmante (Intermezzo II)
Etude IX – Maestoso, non troppo lento
Etude X – Tranquillo e armonioso
Etude XI – Presto furioso
Theme – Come prima

“In terms of its form, the work is somewhat reminiscent of Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques, even though Brussee has decided against a grand Finale, instead allowing the theme to return in all its simplicity, as a subdued “Das war einmal…”. This theme, described by Brussee as ‘inherently Dutch, tough and plain’, reminds me, with its balanced modal character, a little of the language of César Franck. Because the harmony and its melodic development remain clearly audible in almost all of the variations, this modality permeates the whole work, lending to it a lightly melancholic, somewhat French atmosphere. The actual variations are technically highly demanding studies in the tradition of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov. (…) Even though these pieces seem to stem from a particular technical problem, there is here no question of methodological practice pieces, rather of music for which you must simply be a good pianist. This work belongs to the podium! It is naturally curious that in these days a composer is expressing himself in a language of, globally speaking, a century ago. I would not, however, wish to regard this as disadvantageous. Rather, Albert Brussee, as one of the few of today’s pianists, truly strives towards a connection with the great pianists from the beginning of the twentieth century, who were usually much more than just the pure performers who reflect today’s norm. In the light of such comprehensive musicianship he takes the definitive step by actually composing in the style that, as pianist, lies so close to his heart. Anyone regarding this as an anachronism would in fact need to censure the playing of all classical music…..”
Bert MooimanPiano Bulletin 2011-1. (Translated from the Dutch)

“In the second week of October 2018, the Greek pianist Theodore Tzovanakis gave the Dutch premiere of Eleven Studies on a theme by J. Mulders by Albert Brussee. The composition, which had already been performed in Geneva and on 10 October in the Oude Kerk of Zoetermeer, was subsequently brought to the fore under the auspices of the Franz Liszt Kring at three different locations in the Netherlands: on 12 October in the ‘Pro Rege’ hall in Rotterdam, on 13 October in the Arnold Schönberg hall of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and in the Geelvinck Pianola Museum in Amsterdam on 14 October. I had the pleasure of listening to the Eleven Studies in The Hague and retained a very positive impression The work opens and ends with a serene, chorale-like theme in A-minor. The theme, which reminded me somewhat of the chorale themes of the organist and composer Hendrik Andriessen, covers only one page. This page is the basis for the eleven variations that follow, each with different piano technical problems. The studies follow each other in quick succession, there are only a few breaks between the different studies. The technically demanding etudes are alternated with two intermezzi of a more relaxed, melodic character. Intermezzo I is entitled Sarabande elegica, and Intermezzo II Valse charmante. The last etude (Presto furioso) ends with a huge open chord with fermata, after which the soothing theme of J. Mulders was played beautifully and meditatively by Theodore Tzovanakis for the last time. Albert Brussee could not wish for a better advocate than this Greek pianist, who already has a great record of service. (…) These etudes in a melodious, post-romantic idiom, which are extremely suitable for the advanced pianist and also fit well into a conservatory student’s final exam program, are certainly innovative and provide a pleasant tonal sound experience, even to an uninitiated lover of piano music.”
Peter van Korlaar in Liszt Bulletin 2018-3.

“The Dutch premiere of Eleven Studies on a Theme by J. Mulders, composed by Albert Brussee, was very special. A lovely theme that recurred several times was woven into a rich variety of energetic and expressive studies, full of passion and emotion. The sensitive Intermezzos formed beautiful connections. The composer was clearly pleased and satisfied with the beautiful way in which Theodore Tzovanakis performed his exacting composition. This work deserves to be played often from now on. With a long standing ovation, the audience also showed its appreciation for both the composer and the pianist.”
Ruud Zwijnenburg on the facebook page of the St. Concerts Ouderkerk Zoetermeer.

© 2018 AB Music Productions & Editions, The Hague. ISBN: 9789080892064
44 pages; with a preface in Dutch and English.
Availability: through the usual channels (distribution by Hal Leonard in the Netherlands and Belgium) or direct from AB Music productions & Editions.

MUSIC EXAMPLE (live performance of the second half of Part VI en Part VII complete) Theodore Tzovanakis – piano.


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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.