The annual summit for the Composition Department of the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague is the Spring Festival. The 49th edition of this event. Early April is springtime in the Royal Residence. After an earlier vocal concert at the premise of the Conservatoire itself, the real kick off came monday night @ Korzo Theatre. A well known venue for contemporary music. The grand opening was given shape by Ensemble Klang. The Ensemble staged three rehearsels with young composers Eirik Brandal (from Norway), Jan Foote, Sacha Thiele (Germany), Bram Stadhouders (The Netherlands) en Ivan Vukosavljevic (Serbia). Whom were granted a chance to work closely with a group of professional instrumentalists. The compositions expressed a broad band of musical tendencies.
Eirik Brandal's piece Ihbowten is a serene compostion with the brass players, including Erik-Jan de With on tubax (a modified saxophone developed by Benedikt Eppelsheim, playing long notes The piano, percussion and electric guitar produce with their shorter notes a musical layer upon that foundation.
After this piece Klang's artistic leader Pete Harden adressed the public. Pete:"It is great to be back at the Spring Festival after twelve years. We played compositions by Kate Moore, Missy Mazzoli and Roy Nachshon, who have symphonies and concertos performed all around the world. And like these names the names of these five major composers we have been working with the last few weeks we will see keeping coming up in the next years. We just performed Ihbowten. We thought was an old, ancient Finnish word for residence and beauty, but it just a word Eirik made up, he says. We have no introduction to the pieces so you have to hound down the composers in the bar afterwards, asking what were your pieces about. Or I could make up a story now. The next piece is called Colemine. Written c.o.l.e. not c.o.a.l., not the stuff out of the ground. But stuff like Cole Porter or John Coltrane. But actually it has nothing to do with Cole Porter. Jan Foote is the composer. Oh, I promised that I would say; the first piece Ihbowten uses a fantastic instrument, the tubax. Which is a contrabass saxophone. Costs as much as a small family car."
In Jan Foote's compostion trombonist Anton van Houten leads the way, interrupted by piano, percusssion and guitar. With heavy outburst by alto - and tenor saxophone in this piece with a jazzy flavour. Sacha Thiele's 'My recorder on the table' features a taped voice, which is 'commented' by all six players in a lively way. The voice and others sounds were taken from David Lynch - Twin Peaks; Season 2 - Episode 1. A remarkable cohesive piece. With a particular heavy part for guitar player Pete Harden, who while playing had to adjust the string tension.
Bram Stadhouder's piece Ketting is a high intensity piece, rythmic and with a very nice interwoven pattern. It has a distinct drive by bass drum and baritone saxophone. And not to forget a brilliant solo for alto saxophone.
The final piece by Ensemble Klang was composed by Ivan Vukosavljevic. By far the longest composition. About 17 minutes. With live prepared piano by Saskia Lankhoorn, Erik-Jan de With playing alto saxophone in the first half and tubax in the second. And featuring percussionist Joey Marijs handling a violin bow to vibrate a crash cymbal. But the main focus was on Pete Harden 'attacking' his electric guitar with a bow. A piece like a broad river meandering gently towards the sea, with a little congestion of water here and there and passing all kinds of abrasive objects on the shore.
After the concert I discussed his piece Ketting with composer Bram Stadhouders. Bram:"I already knew Ensemble Klang for quite some years. And knowing them I set myself to write a composition for them. It is a piece with many measure changes. And the Dutch title "Ketting" doesn't refer to a necklace, but to a bicycle chain. Turning round and symbolic for returning to a theme. Actually I do have a background with a strong improvisation flavour. I write compositions for my band, mostly improvising musicians. But lately more classical schooled instrumentalists. This piece is only the second one I do not play myself. By the way I myself am a guitarist, playing accoustic as well as electronic guitar." Klang Saxofonist Michiel van Dijk was very opiniated:"All these compositions we played today were well written." And Erik-Jan de With added about the tubax:"The instrument costs 25,000 Euros. Fortunately I have it on loan for five years. I only have to pay for the insurance."
Bram Stadhouders - Ketting
Ivan Vukosavljevic - The Atlas Slave