1. The Palace of the Dreamking


Scenario (*)


1: Sunset (00:00)

A rough, deserted landscape with marshes, woods and mountains. The sun is setting. Mist rises from the swamps.


2: The Nightmares (00:55)

In the darkening sky, small winged horses, the Nightmares, appear carrying people who have been selected by the Dreamking for a bad dream to his palace. At the palace, devils, witches, and phantoms lead the people to the central revolving stage where nightmares will be performed under the direction of the Dreamking.


3: The Dreamking (01:40)

At the stage, everything is made ready for the performance of the night. The Dreamking, an old, wrinkly little man with an immense bald head on an extremely thin neck, rejoices at the dreams he has invented and rehearses some important features with his staff.


4: Siegbert and Santje (02:46)

The first clients are an aged couple living their last years in an asylum for poor people. In the asylum, they have to sleep in separate dormitories for men and women, but they dream of sitting together, as formerly, in a cosy room with their own dear things. The Dreamking fulfils their dream, but as soon as the atmosphere becomes too romantic, he finishes the scene and demands a place for himself on the stage.


5: The Piano Tuner (04:40)

The Dreamking wishes to stage a performance, including a leading role for himself, with the Piano Tuner, an old, soured man who in his dreams sees himself as a celebrated piano-virtuoso performing his own avant-garde compositions for a large audience. The Dreamking puts the Piano Tuner at the piano and tries to compel him to a strictly dodecaphonic Ciaconna, but the Piano Tuner follows his own way, and the devils and phantoms begin to merrily join him in his improvisations. The Dreamking is displeased at this development and sends everybody away, because his beloved:


6: Aunt Anette (06:04)

a 200-year-old noble spectre, has been brought in. The Dreamking tries to impress his beloved with a stately Sarabande performed by beautifully dressed-up dust-wigs, but Aunt Anette is allergic to dust and sneezes the company out of the way. Offended, she rejects the Dreamking's offer of marriage and haughtily retires, while the Dreamking hastily sneaks away.


7: The General (06:51)

The General appears. He is old and retired, but he would like, as he did as a child, to play with tin soldiers and re-perform his glorious battles of bygone years. The Dreamking provides boxes with toy soldiers and the General happily gets to work. But the soldiers gradually take over, as new soldiers keep coming out of the boxes and do not obey the General anymore. Desperately, he tries to stop his troops, but he is trampled over and faints. The swooned General is carried away, followed by the Dreamking, disappointed by his rejected offer of marriage. His power is fading anyway, as the night is coming to an end.


8: Evaporation (09:22)

The palace evaporates. The Dreamking and his assistants lose their power and the Nightmares bring the people back to their homes.


9: Sunrise (09:50)

The sun rises and the landscape is as deserted as the evening before. A few devils hasten to their hiding places and revel in the performance of the next night.


(*) Scenario freely adapted from the book "Truus de Nachtmerrie" by the Dutch author Henriëtte van Eyk (1897-1980). Permission granted by the legal representative of the author's copyrights, Mr. P.J.J. Roth, Amsterdam.



2. Partita


In the first movement, "Sinfonia," the contrasts between a severe, dodecaphonic main theme and a lyrical, harmonious second theme are worked out in playful, sometimes chaotic clashes. Towards the end of the movement, however, all dissonances dissolve in a comforting, peaceful F-major chord, illustrating the idea that the term "Sinfonia" does not only just indicate "sounds coming together," but also "cooperation."


The second movement, "Looking back to Giovanni Gabrieli," is based on a "what if"-question: suppose Gabrieli had known the modern wind instruments in Equal Temperament and the rhythmic freedom of today, what could his music—keeping upright his specific Renaissance harmonies, use of space, changes of time, and final cadences—have sounded like? This movement also wants to show that "archaic" and "contemporary" music can be combined very well in one musical piece, just as antique and modern furniture can form a harmonious combination in one room.


The third movement, "Motu proprio," does not refer to the infamous encyclical "Motu Proprio" from 1903 by Pope Pius X, which pinned the Roman Catholic church music down for a long time to the use of organ, brass players, and male voices, but to more rebellious translations as: "by own forces", "from own motivation," or "according to own insights;" or, in summary, by the well-known text: "I did it my way." This movement also ends with a harmony-confirming chord of F-major.



3. Give us Peace


The work was commissioned in 2009 by Yvonne Peters and Margriet den Hertog, conductor and organist of the Remonstrantse Kerk in Dordrecht (Netherlands), on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the church’s organ, designed and built by the well-known Dutch organ builder Michaël Maarschalkerweerd (1838-1915).


The motto of the work is a quote from the New Testament, First Letter of Petrus, 3:8-11:


"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak speak no guile;

Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it."


The motto is also the basis of the texts “Give us Peace” and “May Peace be with you,” sung by the choir in Latin, Russian, Hebrew, and Arab. These languages, together with the English motto, can be associated with five religions—Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and Islamic—but the message of the work is general-humanistic: the plea is directed to mankind as a whole, as peace has to be accomplished in the first place by united human efforts.


Content of the individual movements

I. “Visions of Peace”: two voices start a dialogue, at first in seemingly incoherent dodecaphonic series, clustering later, when more voices enter, to harmonious five-part chords. Eventually, the atonal series find a firm basis in the pedal-C of the organ. The pedal tone and chords come back in different forms throughout the work as musical metaphors for stability and harmony.


II. “Incantation”: the choir, entering ppp under a sustained chord in the organ, sings the basic text "Give us peace" simultaneously in the four languages. In the course of the work, all four voices of the choir sing the text one time in each language.


III. “Joy”: the organ plays a free fantasy on the themes exposed in the preceding movements, accompanied by voices in the choir. The music suggests a carefree, harmonious society living in concord with each other.


IV. “Monody”: organ and choir perform a unison canticle on the text “Give us Peace”, supported by a sustained C in different voices. The movement holds the center position in the work; it marks the sharp transition between the hopeful first three movements and the disillusioned next two movements.


V. “Devastation”: the music expresses how ideals and hopes felt before can be destroyed by uncontrolled forces from outside. Sharply dissonating clusters in the organ alternate with desperate unison exclamations in the choir. The utter dismay leads to furious outbursts of explosive force.


VI. “Despair (Lamento)”: after the destruction depicted in the previous movement, crushed people leave the ruins to find new ways of peaceful coexistence. The theme of the monody (IV) appears in incoherent fragments, repeating the plea for peace.


VII. “Reconciliation”: the same themes and chords as in movement I-III appear, symbolizing the ambition to restore mutual confidence and acceptance. The work ends in the choir with the wish "May Peace be with you."



Latin: Dona nobis pacem; pax vobiscum

Russian: Prinesi nam mir; mir fsyem

Hebrew: Tenlanu shalom; shalom alekhem

Arab: Atina salaam; salaam aleikum



4. Trio


The work was commissioned by my good friend Maarten van Veen in memoriam of his late wife Mary, who had suddenly died after their having been married for more than 50 years. The musical content of the Trio should reflect different aspects of Mary’s personality, especially her love for nature, philosophy, and having people around her.


Thus, the first movement initially depicts the idyllic, colorful nature at the family’s country home, Het Bergelt (Vierhouten, Netherlands), on a sunny summer day. During the day, peace and harmony prevail in the landscape, but in the night, wild boars, deer, and moles try to undo human efforts and to reshape the environment according to their own ideas; rain, wind blasts, and thunderstorms create destruction and chaos. Eventually, calmness returns, but a feeling of melancholy remains in the human mind, pondering over the short life of all beauty.


The second movement focuses on Mary’s commitment to philosophy, theology, psychology, and sociology, and her activities as a considerate psychotherapist and actively involved adviser trying to find solutions for difficult situations. Musically, the sphere of introspection and discipline is evoked by the use of forms and tonal systems derived from Middle Age tunes. Towards the end of the movement, a climax is built up leading to a cascade of bell ringing as a symbol for a breakthrough of new insight and a liberation of old obsessions, so that the movement can end in peace and resignation.


The third movement commemorates Mary as the center and soul of feasts, the propagator of unconventional ideas, lover of dance, sport, and country life, and a faithful, caring friend for good and ill. The music in this movement is joyful and festive, with a self-willed rhythm stemming from the Greek-Bulgarian-Turkish tradition of asymmetric measures, syncopes, and the changing of measures bringing additional surprises and disturbances. Towards the end, the tempo slows down to Lento in a reminiscence of the first movement. The work ends with a bouncy, short reprise and coda.



5. Magic Winter




The scenario describes how a community of "trolls" (small, grotesque fairy-tale creatures with almost human properties which frequently play a role in Scandinavian folk stories) try to survive in the bitter cold of the arctic winter.


The first movement starts with a slow introduction depicting the desolation of a dark polar landscape in midwinter time. No life seems possible in this barren environment, but slowly trolls appear, longing for contact and company. During the summer, they have hidden themselves for fear of the big animals, but now that those animals are hibernating, the trolls dare to come forward. They have, however, during their isolation, forgotten how to communicate, and misunderstandings, interruptions, and disputes emerge every time they try to start a conversation. After such a quarrel, they stand up, bow, apologize, and endeavor to improve their relations, but soon the discussions get out of control again. The process repeats itself until the trolls get tired and grumbly withdraw in their subterranean hiding-places.


The second movement  expresses the increasing despair of the trolls as the winter drags on, the temperature falls further down, and the sun continuously stays below the horizon. One of the trolls cannot stand the situation and leaves his safe hiding-place to search for the sun. He gets lost in a life-threatening blizzard but is rescued just in time by his companions and joins them in dull resignation.


When despair in the group is highest, a small stripe of light appears above the horizon. The trolls rush to a nearby hilltop to greet the sun, but soon darkness sets in again and the trolls remain disappointed and shivering in the cold.


In the third movement, spring has come at last. Nature frees itself from the grasp of the winter, but it is a violent process: water breaks through ice barriers with utter force, thunderstorms accompany the arrival of the spring and the trolls repeatedly have to rush for their lives to reach their safe homes. But eventually, the force of the sun defeats all destructive forces and harmony is re-established in Nature.



6. Aria

The work has been written for the duo Boni Rietveld (trumpet) and Jaap Stork (organ), as a joint tribute to Francis Poulenc, whose music is dear to the three of us. Poulenc's self-portrait "half-rascal, half-monk" is reflected in the subdivisions of the Aria: "Doucement expressif (gently expressive) - Follement gai (crazily cheerful)  - Tempo I". No literal quotations from Poulenc's oeuvre are given, but the atmosphere and technique are close to the original.



 -- All notes by the composer









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