Ten Holt: Méandres

Ten Holt: Méandres
Composer Simeon ten Holt
Artist Polo de Haas, Kees Wieringa, Ellen Dijkhuizen, Fred Oldenburg piano
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 97005
EAN code 5028421970059
Release June 2024

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About this release

A mesmerising piano cycle by the master of Dutch minimalism.

‘I write music like this not because I’m isolated,’ Simeon Ten Holt once said. ‘I’m isolated because I write music like this.’ And yet, since his death in 2012, performances and recordings of his music have multiplied like one of his motivic cells, gathering energy and momentum to spread the reputation of a composer who took the rhythmic precepts of American minimalists such as Reich and Glass, and coloured them with a European-Romantic glow of harmony.

Composed in 1995-97 for four pianos, Méandres is another monumental yet approachable piano cycle in the mould of his celebrated Canto Ostinato, more complex and more chromatic than the earlier cycle but sharing with it a hypnotic clarity and an improvisatory freedom which leaves a good deal of liberty to the performers. At first, there is no melody, in the usual sense of the word. However, over time, a pattern emerges like a puzzle taking shape before the listener.

The title refers to the meandering course of rivers, which takes them to mountain slopes as well as lowlands. ‘Because it is like a work in progress which never reaches closure,’ remarks the composer, ‘the meandering structure of the piece is quite demanding on the performers. It is the condensation of an inquiry into the very limits of time and space.’

This recording of Méandres was made in 1999 by a team of Dutch pianists who had all worked with Ten Holt on his music, and accordingly it vibrates with disciplined authenticity. Sharp accents continually break and articulate the line and the restatement of the germinal motif, but it always loops back to a cadence which Robert Schumann would have recognised. Combining Baroque rigour with early-Romantic harmony and late-20th-century form, Méandres is both post-modern and timeless as an extension of piano literature.

- Simeon Ten Holt (1923-2012), a Dutch composer known for his mesmerizing and unique style, has left a strong, personal mark on contemporary classical music. Born in 1923 in Bergen, Netherlands, Holt's musical journey began at an early age, and he later pursued his studies at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Throughout his prolific career, Holt created an impressive body of work, but it is his piano compositions that stand out as some of his most iconic and influential pieces. His music is characterized by a minimalist approach, where repetitive patterns and gradual transformations create an immersive and meditative experience for both performers and listeners.
- Méandres (1995-97), for four pianos, is the fifth in a series of major concert-length works. As is the case with the other four (Canto Ostinato, Lemniscaat, Horizon and lncantantie IV), a great deal of freedom is given to the performers in terms of repetition, dynamics and who plays which notes. The result depends on such ephemeral factors as the chemistry between the performers and the dynamics of the moment as much as on anything else. Replacing even a single performer may well lead to a radically different outcome.
- Played by four Dutch pianists Polo de Haas, Kees Wieringa, Ellen Dijkhuizen and Fred Oldenburg, each of them specialized in playing contemporary music.
- Recorded in 1999, a reissue from the NM catalogue, the label for music from The Netherlands.

Track list

Disk 1

  1. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 1
  2. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 8
  3. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 21
  4. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 31
  5. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 37
  6. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 42
  7. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 53
  8. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 74
  9. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 87
  10. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 88
  11. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 101
  12. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 106
  13. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 122
  14. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 125
  15. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 130
  16. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 135
  17. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 138
  18. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 145
  19. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 149
  20. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 155
  21. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 161
  22. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 167
  23. Simeon ten Holt: Méandres: Section 168